Planting ideas and veggies at school

Authors: Isabel de la Fuente, Paula Almiron, Isa Dora de Maddalena

Facilitator: Hugo Pilate

Date: April 1st, 2021.

Anabelle (coop farmer) is sitting at a table outside with Hans (cafeteria manager):
Anabelle: “We have a lot of great ideas for the 15 birthday meals this month but I’m not sure we can afford them!”
Hans: “Thank you for bringing this up, it’s true that I’ve enjoyed this tradition you’ve set up for the past couple of years of helping us cook a special lunch for each student’s birthday! And actually the reason I wanted to meet was to see if this could become even more common!”
Anabelle: Unfortunately, we cannot afford to produce that variety at the price per meal we currently have. We know your meals prices are fixed, but, let me tell you, we share the same concern about our children’s nutrition. I have my kids at your school.
Hans: Yes, this is a common problem for both of us, we need to find a solution. Let’s have some thinking on this…Let me understand. What is exactly causing the high prices?
Anabelle: It is a combination of multiple factors, but definitely, we are struggling with the soil quality, which is limiting the production. The vast areas needed by animals are narrowing down what we can use for vegetables. We should not forget that the soil nutrients are slowly depleting.
Hans: I was talking to some of the teachers and they wanted to have more hands-on in their classes, they were looking for ideas to make the students doing something more experimental, let’s say. What if we ask students to use the left-overs from cooking and use them to make compost? Making compost will be such a great learning for the students and it is a real life biology class in action, and the teachers will like it. I think it can very well work.

Anabelle: Tell me more, I hear you.

Hans: We have some containers in the backyard which have been standing there for ages. We could use them as bin for the compost. Hey, Anabelle, I never thought that the waste of my cooking could end up back to you as nutrition for your production. I love this collaboration.

Anabelle: Now we are talking about vegetables and grains. Of course the quality of the soil is an important factor, but another factor is the size of the area. At the moment a big part of it is used for our animals, cattles, chickens and pigs. If you want to keep the consumption of eggs and meats almost 5 times a week, we even need to increase the area for our animals. Which further reduces the space for grains and vegetables.
Hans: I am glad you are mentioning it. I am astonished we’ve taken this meat consumption for granted. Let’s raise awareness and serve more plant-based foods. This enables us then to increase our food production and diversity of served dishes (e.g. lentils sprouts in bottles).
Anabelle: I love the idea and it is exactly what I had in mind. We could replace meats with e.g. lentils. And, you know, perhaps we can talk with the city governor and try to find a way in which we can give extra support in the nutrition of the most vulnerable families in the area. I am thinking through green farming lessons at school, with paid time for attendance to ensure they can attend.

Hans: That would be great! We would help children to have better nutrition at all of the fronts!
Let’s start from our green farm & and school green farm collab, and see how far it takes us!

Anabelle:: I am very excited to begin with our new community partnership!

A week later, Anabelle and the green farm coop workers went to train the school children to start working on their green farm. At the start, children felt suspicious about eating more vegetables, and plant-based proteins -there are so many myths related to plant-based nutrition! When the school children began with their green farming, they started to feel more connected and respectful with their foods.

The following month Hans calls Anabelle: Hey, Ana, it is going really well! And today we served the lentil patties, which look and taste delicious – if you wouldn’t know you think it is meat.
At the same time, as the students line up to grab their lunch, whispers are traveling through the queue:
Student 1: “You think they used my tomato? It still looked a little green…”
Student 2: “Pfff yeah they used everything I bet!”
Student 1: “You think we’ll still be hungry after it?”
Student 2: “Of course not! The meat patties they served were really delicious and filling. However, I could eat more because our own grown food is really good”.