Student Supplies Local LunchesWed 16 Nov 2011
Story by Justine Hanrahan
I became involved in the local food movement last year, when the criteria for an art project at my school required me to create art inspired by a community of my choice. When I chose to make a short documentary about the family farms in Clark County, WA, I had no idea where it would lead me. What started as a school assignment has grown to be the beginnings of healthy, eco-friendly lunches at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics (VSAA).
I knew that local, sustainable food was important for the health of American citizens as well as good for the environment. I wanted to create a documentary that would draw attention to the farms and farmers of my area. I started by interviewing a couple of farmers that I had previously met. By the end, I had filmed the stories of farmers, store owners, an organization leader, and customers who purchase local food.
Patch: A Time To Build Up Farms
The film, Patch: A Time to Build Up Farms, which I had first estimated would be 10 minutes, turned out to be 23 minutes. I held an event for the movie premier and 100 people attended. The connections that I made with farmers and Good Food Movement supporters have opened doors for me in promoting healthy, local food in schools.
100 Mile Lunch
I began working with Urban Abundance, soon after the completion of the documentary. Urban Abundance is a nonprofit organization based in Vancouver, Washington, focusing on hunger, obesity and localizing our food system. Their aim is to connect people to create a secure food future while promoting an urban landscape filled with abundance. It was through Urban Abundance that we came up with the idea of hosting a 100 Mile Lunch at my high school. The 100 Mile Lunch is a meal where every ingredient is grown within 100 miles of the school where the meal is held.
So far, I’ve coordinated two 100 Mile Lunches at my school, and I have experienced some of the same roadblocks as Jamie Oliver has had in getting healthy food into the schools. First of all, I was told that the event had to be held a certain number of feet from the cafeteria because they were worried about my event competing with school lunch sales. So, I held my event in a science teacher’s room, which fit the distance requirement.
Next, I was told that the meal had to be cooked by someone who had a food handler’s license. I was expecting this and had connections with a local caterer, Jodell Hinojosa, who was willing to do it. The biggest roadblock was that I was required to give each participating student a permission slip with the ingredients on it. The students had to get the permission slip signed and turned back in to me before the event. This, I was told, was to ensure that none of the students were allergic to the lunch we were serving. So, the kids had to get permission to eat healthy food. Getting permission slips to students and making sure that they actually turned the forms back in to me was the hardest part.
The day of the lunch, participants were asked to pay $2.60 to the caterer for her services. Although the number of people who participated was definitely affected by the permission slip requirement, we still had a good turnout. For the first lunch that I organized, there were about 30 students who participated.
That year we ate soup, bread and salad. The second (and most recent) 100 Mile Lunch drew about 35 students. We enjoyed quiches, rolls and salad. Utensils and plates for both lunches were composted in the compost bins that I had set up last year in the bathrooms to keep the paper towels from being thrown away. Attendees loved the lunch and have expressed that they wish school lunches could be like the 100 Mile Lunch every day!
About the Author: Justine Hanrahan, a Junior at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics (VSAA), is raising awareness for Washington farms and getting teens involved, too!
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