“One cannot think well, love well, or sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
– Virginia Woolf
Nutrition, health, respect, connection, community … these are some of the ideas that inform our food security programming: not just survival. Hunger is a real issue in our county and among our participants – research shows that diet is the number one factor associated with poor health.. Undernourishment causes physical and emotional stress with numerous negative side effects – exacerbated domestic tension, impacts to brain development (e.g. working memory), lowered academic performance and behavioral problems among them.
We directly address food security issues with free meals for all our students, meals for our parenting groups, and free high-quality local produce, bread and other goods in our community store. In the store, where there are no price tags because it’s all free, we maintain a “take what you need” philosophy – it’s about trusting and sharing and uplifting everyone, and avoiding piling stress on top of stress by making hungry folk jump through hoops.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
~ Jesus’ little brother Jimmy
So making sure we all have food is a basic step. But we’re going beyond that.
This summer we will be establishing our own food gardens at our new Chaplin Campus. We see in-house food production as a means of cultivating connection with the natural world and awareness of our own bodies and health and lifestyles. We – students, staff, families – will be getting our hands dirty in the garden beds together. A number of raised beds, a greenhouse, an indoor winter growing system are all coming on-line. The gardens will produce food for our community – in Early Childhood Education, in Learning Together, in Parenting Education – wherever we come together around food.
“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.”
~ Michael Pollan
Because for us food is social – it provides a context for us share with each other and to get to know one another. A shared meal curries trust in a way that donated cans can never do. We are inviting our parent participants in for breakfasts and light afternoon meals, to take some of the stress out of their days and allow for additional interface between parents, kids and staff. Shared meals build community.
So does local procurement. We are working with local farmers/producers to stock the shelves of our store and flesh out the menus for our programs. The conscious linkage of our food system with our wider ecological and cultural landscape gives us a larger and deeper sense of “home” and the security and confidence that come with it.
But it is also more than social. Not all food is equal, as our society’s current struggles with obesity and diabetes attest. We believe in quality nutrition – it is not enough to fill someone’s belly when you can be nourishing their brain at the same time. Research ties nutritious food to improved physical health and healthy brain function. Healthy bodies, healthy brains. With psychopharmaceutical use at an all-time high, and increasing especially among children, research in nutritional psychiatry and other fields is demonstrating that diet plays a key role in emotional and thought regulation and subsequently in behavioral and academic performance. We share widespread concerns about the over-medication of children, and choose to invest energy in making sure our kids, whether in Early Childhood Education or in Learning Together, are doing better by eating better. We believe quality food for all is one of the very best investments we can make.
“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.” ~ Alice Waters
And healthy brains will be important to take maximum advantage of one final quality of our food program: it’s educational. Our food system will provide a full array of experiential learning for our students: from the biology of plants and chemistry of soils to food harvesting/storage and preparation/cooking to nutritional aspects of menu preparation. To put a spin on an old adage: “Give a kid some food, and you’ve fed her for a day. Teach a kid to plant, grow, harvest, prepare and cook food – and you’ve fed her for life.”
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” ~ Dom Helder Camara
For more information on our Food Security program, contact: