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.
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.
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.”