Tag Archive | "Slow Food East End"

Promoting “Slow” Food

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By Amy Patton

Students from the Bridgehampton School's Edible School Garden.

Students from the Bridgehampton School’s Edible School Garden.

An upcoming celebration of locally cultivated food, sustainable farming and micro-agriculture will mingle next month with the memory of a North Haven man who held a passion for all these things.

The American Hotel, in partnership with the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation, will host a dinner and pre-dinner cocktail party Sunday, March 24 to raise funds in part for the Edible School Garden Group and the three “master” gardeners chosen to help local school districts cultivate and expand their school gardens.

The foundation is guided by Myron and Susan Levine, of Sag Harbor, who lost their son Josh in 2010 when he was fatally injured in an accident while working at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

Josh, who was 35 years old when he died, left behind two small children and his wife, Ann.

Myron Levine said the overwhelming support for his family from the community after the tragic accident spurred him to find a way to raise funds to better the community. Since Josh was so passionate about organic farming and its benefits, said Myron, the family chose to promote what would most significantly preserve his son’s memory.

Although Josh began his career as a real estate developer in Manhattan, his father said after spending many summers on the East End, his son found a calling in farming and in 2008 he became a volunteer at the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm where he served as a summer apprentice on the Amagansett acreage.

“He was such a gentle man,” said Myron. “He was so drawn by what he saw out here, the simplicity, the purity. He saw the value of keeping local agriculture alive.”

Also to benefit from March’s event is Slow Food East End (SFEE), an organization that, as one of its charitable projects, works with local schools to teach children about the value of homegrown produce. Last year, the group helped several school districts like Greenport and the Hayground School install greenhouses and small gardens so that kids could learn hands-on the benefits of small-scale organic farming.

“Slow food is obviously the opposite of fast food,” said Mary Morgan, the former director of SFEE, who recently stepped down from the organization to head another related charity. “Our goal is for local children to understand that not all they eat must come out of packages at the supermarket.”

The schools that currently benefit from the Edible School Garden program, said Morgan, which this year number 20 throughout the North and South Forks, “are in various stages of working with the students on building and maintaining food gardens.” Morgan noted some of the kids’ homegrown efforts have even led to some of the produce being sold at area farmer’s markets or used in cafeterias. The master gardeners, who are hired with funds garnered from the now-yearly Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation event, work in conjunction with teachers, administrators and students towards the SFEE’s goal.

“For children to understand where their food comes from is so important,” said Peconic Land Trust president John v H. Halsey, whose organization works, in part, to promote the use of local land for farming and allocates funding to make that land more affordable for farmers. “The Slow Food East End movement and the Edible Garden School program both help to instill a conservation ethic in these kids. We’re very supportive of fundraisers like this that help to promote the use of food production farmland and assure that such a valuable legacy stays with us out here.”

The American Hotel’s Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation dinner/fundraiser is currently sold out; However, there are still tickets available for the pre-dinner cocktail party which will be held at Bay Street Theater from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 24, featuring wine, hors d’oeuvres and music. A donation of $75 will secure a place at the event and reservations can be made at www.joshualevinefoundation.org.

 

Not Your Average School Cafeteria

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When the Bridgehampton School’s brand new eating space opens during the second week of classes, you might want to think twice about calling it a “cafeteria.”
Administrators at the school call it a “café,” and for good reason — It really won’t much resemble the sort of cafeteria that serves up mystery meat and canned green beans. Instead, students are much more likely to dine on homemade quiche and thin-crust, whole-wheat pizza.
“We’d rather call it ‘café’ than cafeteria, because it’s kind of quaint,” said the school’s head chef and manager, Dan Pacella. “We don’t serve cafeteria food.”
Earlier this summer, the Bridgehampton School began renovating its old kindergarten classroom into the new café, which should be completed next week.
According to school district superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, the renovation “was suggested by the administrative team last year, as the [old] café was a bit small.”
In addition to seating an additional 15 to 20 people, the new café will feature a greatly improved kitchen in what used to be the coat closet of the kindergarten room. And with a new electrical and plumbing system, commercial gas range and exhaust hood with a fire suppression system, the district’s business administrator, Robert Hauser, believes it will be a more modern and energy-efficient space.
Bridgehampton’s budget for the construction project was $175,000. According to Hauser, the district is “on target” with that budget and will probably end up spending less money than allocated.
Redesigned by the architectural firm Chaleff & Rogers Architects P.C., the school’s architectural team and building and grounds advisors, the café keeps the original character of the historic classroom. The dining area features a window-laden rotunda with built-in wood seats, as well as an existing fireplace, which is decorative at this point.
“It’s been a kindergarten since the 1930s, and there were people who were very sentimental about the room,” Hauser said, explaining why the school sought to keep as many details of the old room as possible.
The school has even preserved some of the kindergarten’s original murals, cast iron radiators and oak wood trim not only for posterity’s sake, but to keep renovation costs down.
However, the café will feature brand new tiling to replace the original red-and-cream tiles which featured illustrations of ducks, bears and other animals. About 15 of the tiles were saved during demolition, and they will be displayed on the café’s walls.
Furthermore, the new café will free up space on the gym/auditorium stage, which had been used to house cardboard boxes of food, a sink for dishwashing, refrigerators and other appliances. According to Hauser, the school hopes to refinish the stage by next summer.
Cooking will also be easier for Pacella, who did not even have a stove in the old café. Instead, he made everything from tomato sauce to chili in a small oven or on a hotplate.
“I can be a little more creative now,” he said.
The old café — which will continue to serve food up until construction on the café is complete — will revert back to its original function as a classroom.
The renovation project comes at a time when Bridgehampton has opted to provide its own food for its students, rather than employing the outside food service provider, Whitson’s, which it had been using previously. However, Pacella, who used to be an employee of Whitson’s, has now been hired as an employee of the district.
The decision to self-operate the café, Dr. Favre said, has “further solidified the board of education’s commitment to health, wellness and East End sustainability.”
While the school has its own greenhouse and has been a longtime advocate of the Slow Food movement, the school plans to provide healthier and less processed meals, as well as more vegetarian options, this year.
Pacella, who serves between 80 and 100 meals per day, will continue to incorporate items from Bridgehampton’s garden and greenhouse into the cuisine served to Bridgehampton School students. He is looking forward to cooking with tomatoes, beans and herbs from the greenhouse, as well as with the sweet potatoes and squash that will be harvested in October.
“It’s great — you can just pick it and cook it,” he said.
According to Hauser, self-operating the café should also save the district money — perhaps as much as $50,000 annually, he estimated. Last year, the district spent about $20,000 monthly in food service. This year, Hauser hopes that will be only $15,000 per month.
With a $5,000 savings each month, Hauser estimates that the $175,000 construction project will have paid for itself in less than four years.

Bridgehampton School Aims to Expand Edible Garden Curriculum

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On Tuesday morning, as rain swept across the East End, a high school botany class convened in the Bridgehampton School’s greenhouse. While Jacob Hochstedler pruned spinach and arugula leaves for the school cafeteria salad bar, Christian Figueroa and Brian Minchala carefully planted baby lettuces in rich, dark soil. Elsewhere, Joshua Hochstedler, Aditya Nugraha and Sammy Vallejo continued their work engineering a hydroponics growing system, while Jason Hopson watered plants.

For students at the Bridgehampton School, this is just another day in the greenhouse, which has served as an experiential model for how a school can incorporate an edible garden into a formal curriculum. Here, students not only learn about the life cycle of plants, but literally get their hands dirty in it.

Seeing the success of this model and understanding that it could be expanded, Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre has proposed the development of a comprehensive curriculum to be based in the gardens and greenhouses that have popped up at schools across the East End over the last four years.

Working with Bridgehampton teacher Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz — a member of Slow Food East End and advocate for edible gardens — and other school districts, the Bridgehampton School will host a workshop this June to develop a kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum around edible gardens.

“It was apparent to me that teachers were not utilizing the greenhouse as much as it should be used, for hands-on learning with students,” said Dr. Favre. “With the new common core standards and a push for more project-based learning, I see our greenhouse as a perfect place to cross curricular lines and develop opportunities for honing 21st century skills like predicting, collaborating, creating and investigating.”

After reaching out to local superintendents and pitching the idea, Dr. Favre said she is now hearing from teachers interested in getting involved in the project. This summer, from June 26 through June 28, those educators will gather at Bridgehampton School to formalize a curriculum that could be implemented as early as September.

Dr. Favre said the hope is at the end of the session there is a fall unit of study for kindergarten through eighth grades. Each district that participates will be asked to send teachers to help with the effort, with each teacher assigned to a grade level, and at the end of the session any school that is involved should have a complete fall curriculum for each grade to work with.

“These lessons will not focus solely on nutrition,” said Dr. Favre. “They will be a variety of science-based lessons that cross curriculum areas, including stories, mathematics and the social studies and history of the area.”

“It is important for our students to understand where they came from, and where we are going, in terms of a society and the importance of understanding a circle of life,” she added. “Eating healthy, buying locally, supporting the community, understanding the science and math behind the growing of food, and marketing, going green, recycling and much more can all be worked into these lessons.”

The impact of having a classroom engaged in an edible garden is already evident at Bridgehampton. Almost all of the students in Bridgehampton’s high school botany class expressed interest in a field related to agriculture outside of the classroom whether it was engineering, mechanics, economics or science.

“It’s also character building,” said teacher Patrick Aiello. “This whole greenhouse was put up by volunteers. Our students help build it, so it has the potential to touch on all aspects, not just growing plants.”

While they will not be a part of the formal curriculum writing, Slow Food East End Edible Garden Coordinators — funded through the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation – have also expressed interest in lending a hand towards the effort, said Carmack-Fayyaz.

“This has a lot to do with life lessons as well,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “You reap what you sow. You have to nurture things. Things take time. If you put the effort in you will get a reward and that translates into your whole educational experience. If you don’t put in the effort, you won’t get anything back. This is a life laboratory. It’s not just academics.”

A Legacy for Levine

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When Myron and Susan Levine bought their first vacation home on the East End in 1979 at Whalebone Landing in Southampton, Myron planted a garden. Years later, sifting through family photographs, he discovered a photograph of his then five-year-old son, Joshua, weeding the garden — an image of a child discovering what would become a lifelong passion.

Now, it is in honor of Joshua’s memory that Myron and Slow Food of the East End hope to make local agriculture an intrinsic part of the lives of children on the Twin Forks, just as it played a vital role in Joshua’s life.

Joshua Levine may have come from New York City with a background in real estate development, among other entrepreneurial pursuits, but it was in farming he found a calling

After almost a lifetime of summering near Sag Harbor, Levine and his family moved to the region, and in 2008 he joined the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett as a volunteer. Levine became a summer apprentice in 2009 and a full time member of Quail Hill’s staff in 2010, his wide grin and affable nature on display each week at the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market as Quail Hill’s Market Manager.

Levine’s life was cut tragically short in November of 2010 when he was killed in a tractor accident at the farm. Levine was 35 years old and was survived by his wife, Ann and his two small children, Willa and Ezra.

The community rallied around the Levine family, many in mourning, but later looking for ways to celebrate the life of Joshua Levine.

In an effort to pay homage to Levine’s commitment to agriculture on the East End, last year Slow Food East End and the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation — a charitable organization founded by Myron and Susan — teamed up for a dinner in Levine’s honor at The American Hotel. The proceeds for the evening funded the opportunity for two young farmers to work at Sylvester Manor, a 350-year-old farm on Shelter Island.

Myron said in an interview this week that Sylvester Manor benefited from the program was particularly poignant as Levine had been interviewing for a job directing the farm, but passed away before he was offered the position.

For the benefit dinner’s second year, Myron said the goal was to open the funding up towards something that would benefit the whole of the East End community. Slow Food East End, which has supported edible gardens in local schools with funding and educational resources, and the Levine family ultimately decided that aiding that mission was a worthy cause and one Joshua would have supported.

This year, the groups will hire three garden coordinators to work with the growing number of edible schoolyards on the East End.

According to Slow Food East End President Mary Morgan, two coordinators will be hired to service schools on the South Fork. One will work on the Southampton side, covering schools in Sag Harbor, the Hayground School, the Lower Ross School, Tuckahoe and Southampton schools, while the other coordinator will focus their efforts on the Ross Upper School, the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, as well as the East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett and Montauk school districts.

The third coordinator will work with schools on the North Fork, she said, as well as Hampton Bays and Quogue, said Morgan. All three coordinators will also work with schools that have yet to establish an edible schoolyard in the hopes of getting new programs off the ground, she said.

Applications are due, fittingly, by the Spring Equinox, next Tuesday, March 20, with the three coordinators selected by March 31. They will be celebrated at the charity fundraiser, the second-annual Joshua Levine Memorial Dinner, which will be held at The American Hotel on April 1.

“These are wonderful programs, but they need to be more self sustaining,” said Myron. “Parents leave, teachers leave, students leave and these gardens require the long-term knowledge and assistance to keep growing. We would especially love to see them grow in terms of the kind of curriculum schools develop around their edible gardens.”

That agricultural, education and the culinary arts were close to his son’s hearts only makes the funding more appropriate, said Myron.

“Josh was a truly amazing person,” said Bryan Futerman, the chef of Foody’s, board member of Slow Food East End and educational coordinator for that organization. “What we envision here is a passing down of agriculture traditions and knowledge, which he would have appreciated. It is important to reach young children and as they grow pass down this knowledge for them so that when they get older they turn around, like Josh, and teach others what they have learned.”

For more information about the internship program visit www.slowfoodeastend.org.

The Second Annual Josh Levine Internship will be held on Sunday, April 1 starting with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Bay Street Theatre, followed by dinner at The American Hotel. Reservations can be made through Myron.Levine1941@gmail.com.

Slow Food for The Bridgehampton School

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The local chapter of Slow Food, a worldwide not-for-profit dedicated to local, fresh, sustainable foods, has organized a National Day of Action on Labor Day, Monday, September 7 – an Eat-In – to focus communities nationwide on the importance of healthy, local foods in schools. The local chapter, led by Emily Herrick of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, will host its own Eat-In at the Bridgehampton School from noon to 3 p.m.

Slow Food East End is asking participants in the “Eat-In” to bring a dish prepared from local ingredients to share with others at the event. Nutrition counselor and writer Alexa Van de Walle is slated to speak, with Caroline Doctorow and Tara Lea performing music.

“It’s basically just a community potluck,” said Herrick on Monday.

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Boasting an edible garden and a Career Academy-based curriculum originally centered on landscape design – this year reaching out into botany and nutrition – students at the Bridgehampton School have been actively participating in the evolution of how food is viewed on the East End of Long Island for several years now.

According to Herrick, the relationship between Slow Food East End and Bridgehampton was natural, with Slow Food already hosting a potluck and screening of “Two Angry Moms” to raise funding for a greenhouse at the school. Slow Food East End has already funded the construction of a greenhouse at the Hayground School, also in Bridgehampton.

The national chapter of Slow Food organized the nationwide Day of Action in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Childhood Nutrition Act in Congress, which is set to expire at the end of September. In a letter sent to local legislators, the Slow Food organization notes that due to changes in food quality, production and consumption, the life expectancy of this generation of children is expected to be lower than that of their parents due to increases in obesity, childhood diabetes and cancer.

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Slow Food is asking Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama to invest an additional $1 per child for each child’s lunch as a part of the Childhood Nutrition Act enabling schools to spend additional funding on vegetables, fruits and whole grains rather than the chicken tenders and hamburgers often found in school cafeterias. The organization is also looking for Congress to establish strict standards for food sold in schools, including in vending machines, fund grants for farm-to-school programs and school gardens, and establish subsidies that encourage schools to purchase locally.

As Herrick noted, without financial support from the federal government, the Bridgehampton School has already begun making inroads towards this type of nutritional model within its district, with the creation of an edible garden and curriculum geared towards agriculture, landscape design and this year, culinary skills and nutrition.

Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz teaches the landscape design course at Bridgehampton and has been working with students for the last two years with the end goal of having vegetables and fruits grown in the school garden served in the school’s cafeteria.

“What we are about at this point is bringing fresh produce into our school,” she said on Tuesday.

Carmack-Fayyaz said this year a culinary science and nutritional class will be taught as an aspect of science this year, with a focus on the science of how food is produced, botany, agriculture and nutrition. The Career Academy landscape design class, which has resulted in the Edible Garden at Bridgehampton, currently overflowing with ripe tomatoes, melons, basil, corn, herbs and bright with a variety of flowers, is a class that has integrated business classes, design courses, botany and mathematics. The nutrition course, which will likely evolve throughout the year, noted Carmack Fayyaz, will introduce science to the class with a lab course that will focus on cooking healthy snacks – snacks Carmack-Fayyaz said she hopes will eventually be sold in the school’s cafeteria.

“This year at Bridgehampton we do have Whitsons,” said Carmack-Fayyaz of the school’s food service provider. “We have been working closely with the Bridgehampton manager for Whitsons, Dan, and he has been great in cooperating with us to ensure we are introducing more greens into the cafeteria. What we need to do this year as a school is explore the economic feasibility of running our own cafeteria. We have to see if we can afford it.”

Carmack-Fayyaz said the district has already reached out to administrators from the Tuckahoe School District, which self-operate their own cafeteria. A representative from that district is expected at Monday’s Eat-In to talk to Bridgehampton School officials about how they have made the program work in Tuckahoe.

“I have to give a lot of credit to [superintendent] Dr. [Dianne] Youngblood for embracing this movement,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “Bridgehampton is unique in that this administration has shown a commitment to these projects and have made resources available.”

“This is a collective movement,” added Carmack-Fayyaz. “We have a lot of great support for this across the East End.”