Food brings people together. It’s often the focal point of get-togethers, celebrations, holidays and cultures. A food or recipe can bring memories of a special time, place or family member. When food is hard to come by, especially access to healthy food, it can be a stressor. To increase awareness of food/nutrition insecurity, Middle School students chose food justice and sustainability as their focus for this year’s Hope Conference, “Together Today, Creating Tomorrow.”
The day started with Grades 5–8 students sharing their food stories—choosing a specific food or dish and explaining their connection or why it’s special to them. They were challenged to think about how that food makes it to the table—how and where it is grown and cultivated and how far it is distributed to a local store. They explored California food deserts and were surprised to learn that many people still lack access to healthy foods right here in San Diego.
Students in Grades 5, 7 and 8 watched and discussed A Place at the Table, a documentary that followed three families who struggled with food insecurity. Speakers from SAGE dining services discussed food waste on campus and the process of developing the school menu.
As the January food drive winners, sixth graders were divided into three groups and visited local nonprofits that address food/nutrition insecurity. One group visited Wild Willow Farm and Education Center to learn about composting and greenhouses. The second group worked with kindergarteners pulling weeds at Barrio Botany located at Sherman Elementary. The third group sorted food at Feeding San Diego.
All Middle School students came together and finished the day by getting their hands dirty (literally!). Each student was given soil, seeds and a 100% biodegradable and sustainable coco coir plant pot made from coconut husks. The variety of seeds included tomatoes, oregano, kale, carrots, sunflowers and more. Students didn’t use gloves or tools, which offered an opportunity to feel the soil between their fingers—the first time for some.
“I’m passionate about teaching students where their food comes from,” shares Grade 7 science educator Lauren Fieberg. “A school garden is an amazing teaching tool of basic elements of life and how a plant grows or a fruit forms. It connects students with nature and exposes them to how much work that carrot takes to grow. The seeds they planted are intended for the prospective LJCDS garden. They are symbolic seeds of hope for the future and represent how each student could have an impact by one small action.”
Educating and sharing their knowledge with friends and family is one way students can spread awareness of food/nutrition security and sustainability. They also learned that they can support local food systems, small farmers and community organizations that provide food access. One example is Foodshed. This nonprofit organization supports local farmers, offers pay-what-you-can options at pop-up markets for those in a healthy food desert and uses sustainable farming techniques to fight climate change.
The theme of “Together Today, Creating Tomorrow” is the collaborative result of Upper School students feeling a sense of gratitude for being back together after the isolation of the pandemic and a sense of unity as a community. They believe coming back together offers a fresh start to envision the future world they want.