In a few years from now my kids will be entering the exciting world of public school. There has been a lot of talk amongst neighbors about the environment our kids will face in the coming years. At first we talk about things like number of students, parent to teacher ratio, the common boring conversation. After a few beers set in, people start to open up and discuss real concerns like ethnic ratios and percent of English vs Spanish speaking students, the juicy stuff. Since we live on the South side, the story takes a lot of unexpected turns. Do I want my kids going to a school where Spanish is the native tongue to 80% of the students? Will they be left out on the playground because they are the minority? When the dust settles, the conversation changes and I go home to ponder these thoughts. I realize that my kids will be fine. They will adapt and make friends, they will be able to speak another language, what do I really need to be worried about? It’s when you take the time to look at the school as whole you realize our happy hour concerns are trivial to some of the other families in the community. I found out that 60% of the kids at Barrett, where my kids will go, qualify for reduced/free lunches (Carlin Springs down the road is at 80%). So now to the real point to the endless rant…drum roll for a fella named Dan Redmond, my new local hero. It’s time to put things into perspective and to start worrying about (and solving) bigger problems. This is what Dan thinks about:
The reduced-price lunch helps families with nutrition during the school year, but they may go through summer without support. We all have seen the increase in food prices recently, but it probably doesn't affect us as much as others in our community. Children at Barrett may experience food insecurity during the summer months.
To address this concern, my family began a program called Tomatoes on Tuesday four years ago. This initiative matches the produce from our vegetable gardens with families at Barrett who can use our help during the summer. Every week through the summer, my kids and I harvest vegetables from four gardens, and share with our fellow students and families at Barrett on Tuesday afternoons. Our harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans has yielded between 800-1000 lbs each summer. One of our gardens is a teaching garden at a preschool, so there is a dual-purpose of education with food sharing at that site.
AFAC has a similar vegetable sharing program called Plot Against Hunger, of which I am also an active member. Over a dozen schools in Arlington contribute food directly to AFAC from their schoolyard gardens to this program. While I encourage others to become involved in the AFAC Plot Against Hunger program, I like the personal contact that comes in sharing with people in our own neighborhood.
I would like to increase the amount of fresh vegetables from backyard gardens shared during this program for our friends at Barrett. To do so, I need active gardeners to share produce from their home gardens. Oftentimes, the families that could use fresh vegetables don't have the private yard space to plant their own gardens. We currently share with between 5-13 families per week- I would like to double this number this summer.
It is not too late to put in some vegetable plants in your backyard to help with this project. You would simply bring what garden produce you would like to share at our weekly get-togethers. The sharing experience has been as meaningful to me and my boys as to the recipients of the food. We have made some wonderful friends in these get-togethers; the act of sharing food with neighbors overcomes any language barrier we may have.
I will be glad to help you get a food garden started if you don't already have a green thumb. It doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor. Even if you are not able to share each week, we would love to see you when you can stop by at our scheduled sharing times at Lubber Run Park. I would also welcome visits from those interested to our gardens in production now. You can also join my yahoo group at:
Please let me know if you would like to participate.
Thanks for your support.
Spread the word. Join the club or start one of your own. If you need help finding a similar organization within your community, give me a shout. I can help you. -Coach Dutton
Barrett Elementary Reduced Lunch statistics
AFAC Plot Against Hunger
Ashlawn's Lettuce 4 Lunch program
Barcroft's support of Virginia No Kid Hungry Campaign
3 days ago