Category Archives: News

Food Day Activities: Organize Lunch

Food Day is generating a lot of talk out there. Just search the event lists on the Food Day website and you can see there’s plenty of ways to become involved. The official day is Monday October 24th, but no one will chastise you for doing this on any day.

Here at Slow Food DC, we encourage you to take a more personal route. Instead of doing something out of the ordinary, we want you to do something very ordinary: eat lunch. If you’re like me, you have to be at work on Monday the 24th. But who better than the people you work with to share the idea of good, clean fair food? The best part is, you can demonstrate by bringing something to share.

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Blog Action Day: Apples

On this Blog Action Day, I hope you will remember one thing, and that is to enjoy food. No meaningful change will ever come to our food system until we reframe our approach to food, and get back to the simple enjoyments of eating quality food.

Clockwise from the top: Rhode Island Green, Splendor, Liberty, Golden Russet, Red Gravenstein, and Bramley's Seedling. Goldrush is in the middle

Yesterday I went to the Distillery Lane Ciderworks and enjoyed a beautiful if windy day in historic fields a few miles north of the Potomac river. Where Union and Confederate soldiers marched 150 years ago, this farm is growing dozens of varieties of apples, many of them heirloom breeds. From British cider apples to Heritage Americans and a few modern cultivars, the tour group sampled the different hard cider produced on the farm and chose apples to take home. Continue reading

Food Day(s)

Feeling like there’s been more discussion about food recently?  If it feels like October is all about food, you are not far from the mark.  From school lunches to hunger issues, many organizations are using October as a time to bring food issues to the forefront of our attention.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest has therefore created Food Day on October 24th, which joins other observances such as World Food Day, this year’s Blog Action Day, National Farm to School Month,  and National School Lunch Week. Continue reading

Dear Apple Cider, sorry I took you for granted

Apple cider. I took you for granted.

This week at school I handed out some local apple cider (non alcoholic of course) samples that were donated to the kitchen. Being October and all, I thought it would be a nice treat to the students. What I failed to realize was how many kids HAD NEVER HAD APPLE CIDER BEFORE! Many people, and a certain demographic, knows all about apple cider, plans trips around apple cider making and purchasing, and goes gaga over apple cider.

Apple cider, a beverage produced from apples that would not be best consumed raw, is an enjoyable drink; a drink I grew up on, seasonally of course. Many kids don’t know what apple cider is. They can tell you all 100 plus products of the CoCa Cola company but they can’t name a natural, historic, beverage that is made naturally at this time every year since the beginning of time. It’s sad. But, the apple cider glass is still have full here and so despite being shocked, we used it as a golden opportunity to talk to the students during those few breakfast meal periods about apples, seasonal produce, apple cider making, and had them try it. Did everyone like it? No. But, some did, and some walked away liking something new they had never tried before. That’s what cooking is all about, right!?

Happy fall! And happy cider drinking.

KEEP IT REAL! cook something

I need to set higher goals.

In my last post I summarized my time in school food service over the last few years and ended with a goal of meeting the First Lady.

I met her this past Saturday.

Now what?

I’ll tell you what!

Home ec.

Michelle wants to bring it back. Well, kinda sorta.

As I was preparing salad greens with Mrs. Obama at DC Central Kitchen, we spoke about (among many things in the twenty minutes I had with her) the need to educate children. Children are coming to school and being raised in an era where the common utensil is a spork, where the average lunch period is 16 minutes long, and the food is much less satisfying. We need to fix that. We need to bring back the pride associating cooking with keepin it real.

We have, in many senses, lost our way in food. We have a huge grassroots and national movement going on that has forced us to think about where our food comes from, who grew it, and how it got to us. But we now need to take that and bring it to the next step; we need to learn how to cook again. Michelle Obama could not be more right.

It’s not a lot. It’s boiling water, blanching, searing, marinating, grilling. It’s salting food, it’s making a dressing, and it’s maybe what you leave a Sunday afternoon for in your family. No one is asking anyone to be a chef. But food can and will bring people together, so why not start it on Sundays when the family is around? Why not open a cookbook or even watch the Food Network together? Cooking, after all, should be fun, not terrifying.

Let me know your thoughts on cooking with your schedule… What challenges do you face in trying to cook at home? And with your kids? What would YOU need to want to cook more??!

Michelle Obama faces the same challenges you all face when raising children to eat in order to understand the power of food, not just eating healthy. She gets that someone has to make those choices for themselves and she wants to help facilitate that connection….but I guarantee you, she wont be using the words “home economics” when she rolls out that plan.

Dirty Pop…..baby, baby, you can’t stop

Soda was everywhere.

In my last three years working with schools I have never seen such a high rate of soda consumption until this year. And I’m not just talking about soda at lunch or in the classroom. I’m talking about kids, first grade to 8th grade, bringing in soda at 8am and drinking it with their French toast (I had a hard time giving them the syrup condiment that morning), carrying it with them through the halls, craving more of it as they drool into the faculty lounge where the soda vending machine is, and then carrying it with them through lunch, into snack, and into their supper meals that we also provide.

It’ everywhere.

And it’s not their fault. It’s not anyone’s fault but our own. As most know who read this blog, food access in this country is a sad irony of a failed destructive system we build ourselves; a system that has set us up to become obese. The kid carrying their soda bottle at 8am into the school has no where to buy juice in the morning, little money and education to know why juice would be a good investment as opposed to the 99 cent bottle of orange soda, and no one telling him different at home. Of course he gets soda and brings it to class. It’s not only cheap but will also fill him up really quickly so at least he can pay attention in the history class he has first period.

This past week the kitchen staff started asking “where”. Where are you getting this soda? Before we gave them their breakfast we wanted to know where they were getting the soda so that the cooks knew why they weren’t eating the food…. soda consumption is effecting everyone and I wanted to get my cooks involved in the talk…after all, they are spending their time making the food and if they aren’t eating it, I would want to know who’s wasting my time.

And after each student gave us an answer they got their meal. We found most were actually getting it from home, which is absolutely terrifying. Again the disconnect in food access is always food education and asking why they are stocking their homes with soda is more important than wondering why the kid brought it in now. It’s cheap.

So, the ultimate issues, as stated, is education. How do we work with families to understand the priorities of moving their income to be spent on quality rather than quantity and telling them that truly, in the end, you will save more money and be healthy? Addressing this is huge and with parents. The last thing parents want to hear is someone preaching to them about how wrong they feeding their kids. But we don’t really have a choice….our work in our kitchen at this school becomes about the parents.

On back to school night you can be sure that not only will we be talking about the food we are serving but about the importance of what the food is and why. After all, the beginning of education starts with a conversation …and I’m looking forward to it.

3rd year and the First Lady

I’m approaching my third year at DC Central Kitchen working under the Fresh Start catering umbrella arm in school food dining services. It’s been night and day in how we approach school food. Three years ago I, we, DCCK, were getting our feet wet by feeding 72 kids in a private school in North East. Year two brought us both clients in the public charter school sector and of course, the pilot program we were granted for 7 DCPS schools (these schools were the most under served in the over 100 schools that DCPS has on its roster). And now, in year three, our feet are no longer wet but rather soaking with experience, knowledge, and the tools to move into different schools to feed and also educate.

I am one of now a team of school food chefs with DCCK. Just as we have expanded our operations to develop more schools we needed more chefs to help execute them and I am honored to work with them.

This year my home base is at Walker Jones Education Campus right in the heart of the city. This school ALSO just happens to have a one-acre farm on it. But before I can use the produce that grows on the farm I have to have forms filled out signed by parents saying that their kid can eat the produce…. AND we then have to get the soil tested…makes sense and all but do you know how hard it is to get 436 waivers back? My next goal is to then figure out how much produce actually needs to be grown so that we can feed the students each their 4oz of vegetable portion as mandated for lunch by the Healthy Schools Act and national school lunch program.

You can be sure that Iron chef competitions will happen and guest chefs will visit. My goal is to try and get the First lady to visit the school and see how far we are going to get kids to understand the importance and role of food in their lives.

But then again…. when you have kids, who on the 5th day of school ask you when the salad bar starts well, that makes me think that maybe these guys already know the role of good food in their lives.

Garden Party: Annual Community Garden Day

If you have some time tomorrow (August 13th), head over to the P Street Whole Foods for the Annual Community Garden Day! The Garden Party gets underway at 10:00 AM and runs until 3:00 PM.

Washington Youth Garden, Arcadia Farm and Sustainable Agriculture, City Blossoms, The Farm at Walker Jones, Rooting DC, Department of Parks and Recreation will be on hand to share information, share the harvest, and bring the community together to share in the delights of community gardens.  You  may even hear a bit about Slow Food DC and developments with our Snail of Approval Awards!