The Albany Vegetable Project by the Honest Weight Outreach Team
When students at Albany’s Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School are offered a taste in the garden for the first time—perhaps a taste of a freshly pulled and washed carrot—someone will often say something like, “No way! I’m not eating something that just came out of the dirt!” This reluctance, however, typically evaporates as soon as the student sees a friend happily chomping away. And then, likely as not, he or she will proclaim, “That was good!” Kids at Myers Middle School are giving fruits and vegetables a try thanks to the Vegetable Project, which organizes gardening and related programming there and at Albany High School. “We don’t put any pressure on anyone,” says Bill Stoneman, who launched the garden-related initiative when his daughter was an eighth-grader at Myers. “The relaxed atmosphere, kids having a hand in growing and harvesting what they’re eating, and the positive example that friends set seem to be enough.” And that’s very different from what often happens at many family dinner tables with regard to fruits and vegetables! With 30 to 40 different types of edibles growing most summers, encouraging kids to eat, or at least try, some veggies is an important part of the 8
Vegetable Project’s work. Depending on the time of year and what is ready for harvest, kids might pluck cherry tomatoes from the vine and pop them right into their mouths, prepare simple salads right at the garden, or roast root vegetables in a classroom kitchen. Sometimes they take bagfuls of greens home with them.
With 30 to 40 different types of edibles growing most summers, encouraging kids to eat, or at least try, some veggies is an important part of the work. But the Vegetable Project’s mission involves a good deal more than just introducing kids to ground cherries, peas and beans, tomatoes and basil, and the freshest strawberries imaginable, although that alone would be worthwhile. Recognizing disparities in the lives and academic experiences of Albany students, the Vegetable Project was organized to use gardens and hands-on work with live plants to reach out and try to help support kids with the greatest needs, including those who may face, and may present, significant challenges in traditional COOP SCOOP
Honest Weight Food Co-op's bimonthly wellness and lifestyle magazine. Issue #422.