Early last week, we were excited to welcome one of nine groups of campers from CAMBA‘s After School program for an Enrichment Visit. CAMBA is a non-profit agency that provides services to 35,000+ low-income people on welfare; at risk of homelessness; living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS; immigrants and refugees; children and young adults; and other groups working to become self sufficient. We have been lucky enough to work with over 300+ youth from CAMBA this summer.
On this particular visit, the lesson “Eat Whole Foods!” focused on the distinction between whole and processed foods — for example, investigating the differences between a potato and a French fry, or tomato and ketchup.
The lesson opened with an exercise to help identify various classifications of foods. The class had to determine if the image on our graphic cards was either a whole, light processed, or heavily processed food. For example:
Can you identify which one is which?
These kinds of games are great ways for kids to build recognition skills, and to begin thinking about the foods they eat and how far removed they are from the plant or animal they originated with. While most of our Enrichment Visit campers that day – and indeed, many of us — might not spend a lot of time actually thinking about these kinds of distinctions, Farm Apprentice Nicole noted that the students were actually fairly on-point with their answers.
Following this activity, students got to explore the various whole foods growing on the farm – which included everything from amaranth, beans and beets, carrots and cucumbers, dill, and eggplant to okra, potatoes, sage, swiss chard, tomatoes, and zucchini. Of the tour, Nicole also noted that:
The kids were really attentive and intrigued to see the tomatoes growing on the farm. Most of these kids aren’t accustomed to seeing their vegetables in the growing process, still attached to their host plant. It’s fascinating to witness the moment in which kids make that realization and connection that their food comes from the ground. This was especially true for potatoes. Fast food french-fries were more familiar to them than the actual whole unrefined, un-processed potato that they come from.
After exploring the whole foods, students were finally given the opportunity to make their own lightly-processed treats! The class of 40 was divided into three groups, each of which was tasked with harvesting a different green from around the farm: sage, chard, and basil.
Once the greens were harvested and hand-washed, the kids gathered to prepare three raw pesto blends. Using hand-powered veggie choppers, each group combined their greens, along with some olive oil; salt; and a blend of lemon juice and water to make a fresh green pesto. Once complete, it was time to taste and compare the fruits of our labor with some dipping crackers.
(In case you’re wondering: while the group felt that each pesto was unique and awesome, the basil pesto gained the most praise.)
The pesto that we made was technically processed, as there was some labor involved in preparing it. But with minimal alterations and no temperature influence (i.e. heat or chilling), it retained all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients of whole and lightly-processed foods that are great sources for energy in our body.
Our goals with this lesson were to help kid distinguish between whole and processed foods; and to understand why whole foods are better for our bodies. In doing so, we hope to inform their eating choices and perhaps even spark a new interest in purchasing, preparing and eating more fresh whole foods.
The Battery Conservancy thanks CAMBA for choosing Battery Urban Farm as a site for their After School program this summer. We would also like to thank City As School and the Ettinger Foundation for the donation of the hand-powered veggie choppers that made these pestos possible!