When teachers from Garnet Elementary School reached out to the Food Initiative to run an educational program for fifth graders, Eden Kloetzli ’17 and Food Initiative Interns Analiese Bush ’22, Max Moore ’22, Alaina Perdon ’22, and Lanning Tyrrel ’22 coordinated an effort to extend their experience further into the community.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, 54 local children were introduced to a central idea: foods that helped our ancestors thrive could be celebrated in our modern lives. After orienting themselves to the space, some intrepid nine- and ten-year-olds stepped inside the humidity-controlled fermentation chambers used to cure meats and age cheeses, just as caves have been used for thousands of years. Eden described community traditions of grinding nixtamalized corn around a molino as their fingers traced the stone burrs of the machine, and she captured their imaginations with images of bountiful meals enjoyed around the warmth of a wood-fired oven.
Food Initiative Interns helped to explain how beneficial bacteria could be harnessed to transform food, and divided the children into teams to practice chopping vegetables: green and red cabbages, onions, beets, and carrots. With each food they explored basic botany with Shane Brill ’03 M’11, and delighted in the unexpected connection to photosynthesis in their science curriculum.
Hands washed, they all mixed the chopped vegetables with salt to experience the sensation that plants, after all, are mostly made of water. The students packed jars with salty vegetables till they brimmed with brine, then reflected on their experience over a cup of kombucha, penning thoughtful messages to the would-be recipients of their creations.
Teachers returned to their classes with some large demonstration jars to let the students observe (and taste) their bubbling sauerkraut over the next week. Food Initiative Intern Alaina Perdon ’22, co-president of the Washington College chapter of the Food Recovery Network, brought the aged jars of sauerkraut to a community dinner for local families in need of food support.
The sauerkraut, and the accompanying heartfelt messages from the students who made it, radiated the mission of the Food Initiative into the community. We’re grateful to the Garnet Elementary teachers and students who made this experience possible. And we’re thankful for for our dedicated interns who embody an optimistic passion for using food to nourish our community.