Posted on Tue, March 06, 2012 by Slow Food USA
11 Comments | Categories: Slow Food Chapters in Action, Youth Food Movement,
Written by Bennett Thompson, Benjamin West, Elizabeth Vandenberg, and Joseph Malanson
We are students from Iowa City West High School, and Slow Food USA’s youngest members. Surrounded by the corn and soybean fields of southeast Iowa, we’ve all grown up in the spirit of agriculture, but with varying visions of what a farm should be. Over the past two years, our activities as a part of Slow Food have formed our understanding of sustainability and good food.
The first time I heard about Slow Food was September 2010, when I listened to chef Kurt Friese speak at his restaurant, Devotay. I asked him what high-schoolers like me could do to help the cause. He said it’s simple: start a Slow Food chapter at our school.
So, that’s what we did. We got in touch with Slow Food USA & through the Slow Food on Campus program, our fledgling club become a proper chapter—the first and only High School Chapter in the country. Just like that, the West High Slow Food Chapter was up and running—described to the rest of the student body as one part environmental, one part culinary club. At our first meeting we decided we wanted to do something big, something that would not only tell students, but show them how proper food should grow and taste. Naturally, the solution was to start a garden. To tell that story, I’ll pass it on to Benjamin, another West High Slow Food leader.
- Bennett Thompson, ‘12, West High School Slow Food (WHSF) Leader
To start out our planning for the garden, we turned to local organic farmer Bob Braverman of Friendly Farm. With the help of Bob and Quality Care, a local landscaping company, we turned a swath of compacted dirt into a fertile, 16x60 foot plot of prime growing space. Within no time, we we had a lush garden and by the last day of school, we had enough produce to give salads out to the entire student body during lunch period. The day after our lunchroom debut, we still had one hundred pounds of greens, beets, and radishes to give to the local Crisis Center Food Bank. The garden was a huge success for us and we owe a great deal to Bob who donated time, seeds, and expertise, receiving only a little help on the farm every once in a while in return. Tragically, Bob passed away this summer, but through our garden we are keeping his memory alive.
- Benjamin West, ’12, WHSF Garden Coordinator
Inspired by the produce grown in our community, we decided to do some cooking as well! Last year, after hearing about the pounds and pounds of apples my friends in Slow Food Club had picked at the local orchard, I was invited over to help cook them. There were about 90 pounds of those apples and, after peeling and slicing them (with the aptly named apple peeler-corer-slicer), we managed to make every dish that’s ever had an apple in it. We had such a good time cooking apples that we made weekend cooking a regular get together. Since our first gathering we’ve baked our own bread (Beard on Bread is a beautiful, beautiful book), many more apple and pumpkin pies (which we raffled off to raise awareness for Food Day 2011), and pesto from the massive amounts of basil grown in our garden. Recently, we had a butternut squash day, making squash ravioli with a brown butter sauce, curried squash soup, and squash pie (Conclusion: squash is delicious. Eat some.). Needless to say, everything is from scratch and has as many local ingredients as we can get our hands on, having an incredibly good time while getting together to share Slow, homemade meals.
- Elizabeth Vandenberg ’12
Slow Food at West High has a vibrant future. We want to encourage kids who have never had the chance to grow, harvest, and eat sustainable food to come and see what Slow Food is about. We plan on expanding our garden this year and beginning a school-wide composting program. In addition, we hope to reach out to different departments in our school ranging from science to special education, and work with them to incorporate our garden into their curriculum. Either way, we’re sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities to share our message and our food with the students and staff here at West High, whether it be from contributing our food to the cafeteria or celebrating events like Food Day. The youngest Slow Food chapter in the US is just getting started!
- Joseph Malanson, ’13, WHSF Co-Leader