by Ed Yowell
Last Wednesday, May 11, 2011, I attended an incredible fund raising dinner at 'egg', a very "slow" restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to benefit the good food education programs at Automotive High School, a NYC vocational school, just up Bedford Avenue from the restaurant. About 60 happy eaters enjoyed an incredible meal prepared by egg Chef George Weld. But the real stars of the evening were Jenny Kessler, a teacher at Auto High, and four of her students studying Food Politics by reading and discussing Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan, working in the edible AutoGarden, cooking in the Cooking Club, or selling AutoGarden produce to egg and other customers in the neighborhood. The success of Jenny's Auto High classes and activities, supported in part by the Slow Food NYC Urban Harvest in Schools Program, speaks eloquently about good food education for kids, but not as eloquently as the kids themselves.
Here is what Jenny's students wrote about their experiences -
"Things that have shocked me thus far: how much stuff and steps it takes to grow food on an industrialized basis and how it damages the environment by disturbing natural cycles. And learning about fair trade because it's shocking how they treat women growing flowers in Columbia and coffee in Guatemala." - Spike
"I never knew that food was so complicated and that it goes through so much before we eat it. We don't even know what's in it." - Shaquille
"I think the food we eat is dangerous. All the ingredients some companies put in their produce are just unnecessary." - Abraham
"If U.S. factory food lacks nutrition, why do they sell it? That's why lots of people are at the doctor..." - Lamonique
"It seems that our society and economy only care about the quickest and most efficient way to make money off the food market, regardless of what happens to our health." - Lane
"Are there only amateurs running EPA? Are they not educated?" - Luis
"This is odd. We grow plants on industrialized farms with things that were once used to kill people (referring to chemicals in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that were once materials of war.) - Spike
"Like most, I was an ignorant consumer who fell for all those ads on TV...Since learning more, before anything goes in my mouth, I like to see what's in it and (know) how it affects me. It behooves everyone out there to gain some knowledge on the stuff they consume because it affects your health." - Edward
"I think to myself, why do (some) farmers use these chemicals? They cause mutant babies and create super bugs, cause neurological damage and lower sperm counts. I don't like any of these outcomes...it leaves me wondering, 'why does the government allow this'? - Lane
Ed Yowell is a member of the Slow Food NYC Board of Directors and a Co-chair, with Martina Rossi Kenworthy, of the SFNYC Urban Harvest in Schools Program. Ed is also a member of the Greenmarket Farmer and Community Advisory Committee and a Co-chair of the Food Systems Network NYC.