At junzi, we’re always excited to work with organizations that engage, educate, and uplift local communities. This summer, we had the incredible opportunity to visit two schools that are part of Edible Schoolyard NYC. Each school has its own garden, learning spaces, and kitchen for students to engage in hands-on curriculum.
What we learned
We visited two of the program’s demonstration schools: PS 216 in Gravesend, Brooklyn and PS 7 in East Harlem. Here are three of the most important lessons we learned from our visits.
1. Food connects us to our place and time
Each Edible Schoolyard garden is unique to its school and community. Everything from what is grown in the garden to the recipes that students learn is tailored to the school and community where it resides. Students get to suggest new plants and recipes! At PS 216, a parking lot forms the base of the garden, now completely covered in soil and vegetation. They have space to grow rice, bok choy, and even raise chickens.
PS 7 in Harlem has a very different type of garden, nestled between the school and a basketball court used by the community. Their space has a concrete foundation, with an array of long containers bursting with tall plants, as well as a rooftop garden over the cafeteria.
Seasonality also plays a factor in the selection of greens. We saw one of our favorite seasonal summer vegetables, garlic chives, reaching for the sky at PS 7. Students recently prepared a Chinese veggie stir-fry using seasonal produce from their garden, the recipe for which you can find at the bottom of this post!
2. Food connects us to our environment
In New York City, green spaces can be few and far between. The Edible Schoolyard site at PS 216 is part of a neighborhood that has the third-lowest percentage of open green space in Brooklyn. Their garden gives students regular access to green space that otherwise may be difficult to access. It helps educate students about vital environmental practices like composting and sustainable growing. This space allows students to connect and engage with the environment, forming a relationship with sustainability that runs deeper than what can be found in a textbook.
3. Food connects us to each other
One of our favorite parts of the Edible Schoolyard program is the way that they engage with the community. The impact of these spaces goes far beyond the students in the classroom, branching out to parents and community members through farmstands run by the students, interactive cooking demos from local chefs, and recipes that students take home to share with their families. The food that students prepare incorporate culturally significant dishes from the communities that these students come from. We strongly believe that food is one of the best ways to share and absorb culture, and the looks of excitement and anticipation from students while preparing a new dish made it clear that these moments of connection leave a lasting impression.
We’re thankful that Edible Schoolyard gave us the chance to see their programs in action. Stay tuned for some exciting future collaborations with their organization! In the meantime, please check out Edible Schoolyard’s website here, and consider signing up to volunteer or make a donation.
Chinese Style Vegetable Stir Fry
Makes 4 servings
This stir fry uses a lot of ingredients from the garden! Vegetable stir fry is a very easy dish to make that is also a healthy option for lunch or dinner. The delicious sauce adds some sweetness and spice.
2 cups of your favorite vegetables (carrots, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, tatsoi, turnips, etc.)
1 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP of fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
2 TBSP of rice vinegar
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 water or vegetable broth
1 TBSP of sriracha
2 TBSP of honey
1 TBSP of cornstarch
Mix your sauce ingredients together in a small bowl until you get smooth consistency in your sauce. Set aside for later.
Chop your vegetables into small bite-sized pieces.
Add your olive oil to a hot pan and cook your veggies for 5 minutes or until your vegetables are tender. Stir often.
After 5 min, add your sauce to the veggies, and cook for about 2-3 more minutes.
Enjoy alone or eat with some rice!
Recipe courtesy of Edible Schoolyard NYC.