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New to the project this year is the Our Own Lunch Program, which enlists the kids in making their own lunch. Using as much of the harvest as possible, three kids act as the kitchen crew of the day, preparing a meal from scratch for their farmer peers. Under the creative guidance of Jenny Breen, the former owner of the now-closed Good Life Café, a menu might include homemade veggie pizza on whole-wheat crust, tossed greens and cucumbers with basil-mint vinaigrette, and fresh rhubarb tart. With help from local chefs who volunteer time in the kitchen, Breen works with the kids to plan menus, cook and serve the meals, and compost waste to use on the gardens, thus completing the cycle.

"We made ravioli," says Renee, a sprightly ten-year-old sporting a purple scrunchy in her ponytail. She pushes her hands across the table as though holding a rolling pin. "I got to roll the dough really, really thin."

"We get all kinds of things," chimes in Johann. "I really like the noodles with sesame seeds and the curry we had."

Tony Nelson

Location Info

Map

Lunds Marketplace

1450 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Retail

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Staffed by parents, neighborhood volunteers, business owners, and resource people, the activities are designed to help build self-confidence and develop life skills. The relationships foster in these kids a broader view of the world of work beyond the all-too-typical mind-numbing teenage jobs, like scooping fries at McDonald's.

To that end, after cleanup, the kids choose a scheduled activity from a list including graphic design, theater, cooking, sewing, poetry, and photography. The graphic-design group makes T-shirts, signs, and displays for the farm markets. Woodworkers build flower boxes, garden whirligigs, toys, and plant stakes. In collaboration with the Southwest Journal, the journalism group publishes a newsletter, What's Sproutin'. The sewing group makes sachets to sell at the markets, while the poets put together a chapbook. Last year, with Watson's help, one group collected recipes from local celebrities and the kids themselves for a cookbook that's now sold at the farm stands.

"I got to work with Lucia in her restaurant," Renee says, smiling broadly. "I mixed the salad and made these great sugar cookies." Barbara Davis (Ken Davis Barbecue Sauces) and chefs at D'Amico Cucina and May Day Café also invite the kids into their kitchens for hands-on experience.

To round out the program, YFMP kids attend "Farm Camp" at two locations in Wisconsin: Philadelphia Community Farm in Osceola and Wilder Forest in Somerset. They spend three days learning to milk cows, make butter and yogurt, corral sheep, load hay, harvest vegetables, set up irrigation lines, make potting soil, and weed beds. They also cook their own meals, swim in the St. Croix River, walk in the woods at twilight, and gather around a bonfire in the evening to sing and tell stories.

According to a recent study at Louisiana State University, 40 percent of the vegetables eaten by African-American teenagers are French fries and potato chips. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports the average teenager drinks about 21 ounces of caffeinated soft drinks per day. The marketing target for high-fat, high-caffeine junk food, kids make up the consumer group often referred to as "Generation Wired."

It's no secret that the numbers are even worse in low-income neighborhoods and other places where there are few viable alternatives to the processed foods of expensive convenience stores. To paraphrase an article in the New York Times last year, "Poor people eat poor food."

I've learned over and over again that the best way to get my kids to eat good food is to get them cooking. (What little boy doesn't love fire and knives?) A program that involves kids in making healthful lunches pretty much ensures that these kids will learn to cook and eat well. "There's real excitement and anticipation as the kids head out of the garden to lunch," says staff coordinator Englund, who reports hearing comments like, "I hope we have those egg rolls again," and "Weren't those enchiladas killer?"

Gardening, cooking, serving, eating, composting--all are truly basic activities. But the lessons they can teach are often obscured and drowned out by the clamor of the media and the insidious temptations of consumerism. Kids today are bombarded with a culture that teaches redemption through buying things. These gardens turn our culture upside down--through this work, the kids develop an understanding of the real, the authentic, and the lasting--the experiences money can't buy.

 

Youth Farm and Market Project produce is available on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in neighborhood farmers' markets held outside Calhoun Square in Minneapolis; at El Burrito Mercado, 175 Concord St., in St. Paul; and at the corner of Chicago Avenue South and East 31st Street in Minneapolis.

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