The Experimental Station has built a dynamic and expanding food education program in an ongoing effort to alter the purchasing behavior and food consumption patterns of Woodlawn’s low-income children, youth, and adults. We believe ‘food access’ is a multidimensional problem that takes long-term investment to solve and as a result we have identified three goals to carry out through food education programming at the Experimental Station:
To offer weekly at-Market educational programming through our Market School activities.
Since 2008, there have been approximately 225 Market School days. Each week at the Market School tent, individuals, groups and organizations volunteer to engage market customers in conversations about topics like nutrition, sustainability, buying locally, gardening, and living more healthfully.
To build upon our in-school food education program by introducing a three-year food education structure into the curriculum of the Andrew Carnegie Elementary School.
Based on a model developed in 2013, we instituted a 3-level program for 2nd through 4th graders at Carnegie Elementary School (where 85% of students are low-income and time and resources to develop experience-based learning opportunities are low).
Level 1: Students learn the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables, how the fruits and vegetables are grown sustainably, which fruits and vegetables are grown locally, what they taste like, when they are grown, and how to grow them. In 2015 we led a 4-Week in-school Healthy Eating Course to 170 2nd and 3rd graders.
Level 2: Students learn to garden and produce a food crop through planting and growing at a nearby hoop house and outdoor raised beds at Jackson Park Terrace apartments. In Spring 2015 we led a 7-Week in-school Gardening Course for 60 2nd graders. For Fall 2015, another 180 4th graders participated in a 4-week gardening class during fall term before the garden was closed for the season. Since 2013, over 400 students have been able to learn these gardening skills during in-school class time.
Additionally, since 2008, we have provided single visit, 1-hour Healthy Eating Workshops to over 1,000 students at area schools.
To build parent interest and involvement in supporting healthier diets for their children:
Level 3: Students in the 4th grade are offered youth cooking classes after school. The cooking classes consist of 4 series of three-class sessions, for up to 15 students per class (2 4th-grade classes in the fall and 2 in the spring). The classes are free of charge and the focus is on the many healthy foods grown locally, with nutritional information about the produce being prepared, and weekly recipes provided for participants.
We offer two Healthy Eating Workshops per year to the parents of 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade Carnegie School students themselves, including a tasting of one or two locally grown fruits and vegetables. Parents learn about the 61st Street Farmers Market and how the Market will double LINK purchases.
Through the gardening program at Jackson Park Terrace, residents learn to cultivate their own vegetables in the hoop house in addition to attending Healthy Eating Workshops, a cooking demonstration, and a tour of the Market by the Market Manager and staff members from University of Chicago Medicine's Improving South Side Diabetes.
From 2013-2015, a total of 157 elementary students and adults participated in these Healthy Cooking Classes.
During the summer, Woodlawn youths can participate in a 10-week gardening program where they learn pruning and trellising of vegetables, succession planting, and harvesting techniques. Harvested produce is given to youths for preparation at home.
There are many additional opportunities to educate our neighbors about the Market and about eating healthfully, including offering fresh produce samplings at local Department of Human Services offices, providing weekly fruit or vegetable tastings for Blackstone Bicycle Works youths, and exposing youths and adults to backyard chickens.
The impact of all these experiences is immeasurable and deeply important when we consider how to better “connect with your food”.
For more information on any of these programs, contact Kelly Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org