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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog

Summer Brings EATWISE

by Justin Crum

As the last days of school approach, we are gearing up for our summer EATWISE Program, which provides an opportunity for students to go considerably more in-depth with the topics we cover. We received a ton of applications, and are interviewing candidates. Students will be out in the community, working with food assistance programs, urban farms, and our Community Kitchen in Harlem. Two participants from last summer, Johnathan and Andrew, described their work at the Community Kitchen as such:

[In the Community Kitchen’s soup kitchen,] you help clean, prepare food, set up for breakfast and dinner, and after you’re done cooking, you can enjoy a meal with the other volunteers. All the produce there is fresh, and is prepared in the kitchen. Cleaning is the hardest thing but when you have help it becomes very fun.

Justin CrumWe try to help students connect what they are learning about nutrition to real-world situations. Working directly with community groups that deal with hunger gives students a context to explore what they are learning. Cooking always proves to be a wonderful outlet for their energy (but it certainly doesn’t hurt to get their hands dirty cleaning or working in a garden). Stay tuned for blog entries about EATWISE Summer 2009 from the students themselves!

Justin Crum is the Youth Development Manager for EATWISE, the Food Bank's CookShop for Teens program.

NYC Youth Forum

By Justin Crum

EATWISE, the Food Bank’s CookShop for Teens program, recently attended and gave a workshop at The Youth Forum & Expo: Food, Farming and Active Living. Guided and planned by a multi-generational group of students, volunteers and nonprofit professionals — and co-sponsored by the Baum Forum and the NYC Food & Fitness Partnership — the event was an overwhelming success.

Most of the youth at the event were already working to make their communities safer, healthier and more productive places. And most who weren’t yet were actively searching out a way to do so. Besides the students' drive to improve themselves and their communities, I was incredibly impressed that they were all there. At a conference. On a beautiful day. During spring break.

They were there not only to find internships and jobs for the summer, but also to give presentations about the work they were already doing. They gave workshops on everything from starting farmer’s markets to starting businesses, planting to cooking and changing their own eating habits to changing the food their school serves. And their excitement was contagious.

I catch the same feeling when visiting our EATWISE chapter schools. For many people, loud high school hallways filled with groups of young people are anything but energizing — but once the students focus in on something positive, their drive and clarity can be astounding. We’re very proud to have been part of this great event, and of our EATWISE students for the passion and energy they bring to their work.

Get Your Gardening On!

By Katy Mitchell-Gilroy

April is National Gardening Month.  What’s that you say?  Why is the Food Bank For New York City blogging about National Gardening Month?  For one very simple reason: Gardens are a great source of healthy home grown fruits and vegetables! (And we do realize it’s the end of the month, but it’s still the beginning of garden season!)

Backyard garden at the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem. Our garden provides fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit for soup kitchen service at the Community Kitchen.

“But wait!” you’re saying.  This is New York City, where people live elbow to elbow and building a garden on the Great Lawn in Central Park is illegal.  Where can you garden? Get creative; you could try a tiny container garden, where produce is grown in flower pots, boxes, or even recycled materials.  There’s no limit to what can be grown in a container. 

If you have space for it, you might think about a large backyard garden.  The Northeast allows a lot of fruits and vegetables to be grown outdoors.  Cool springs and hot summer days filled with sunshine (and usually just enough rain) give a backyard gardener a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from.  Some of my favorites are tomatoes, eggplants, peppers (green, red, yellow, orange and even purple!) and fragrant herbs.

And for those with no space for a container garden and no backyard for a garden, have you thought about a community garden plot?  Community gardens, common in Europe but taking hold here in New York, offer urban gardeners a plot of land to grow, well, whatever you’d like! Community gardens are located throughout New York City; you may pass one as you walk to work!  These plots of plants and flowers and the occasional garden gnome are beautifying the city every day.

Gardening also brings to mind thoughts of fresh produce.  Food Bank For New York City is bananas for produce — we distributed more than 14 million pounds of fresh produce last year! We even offer shares in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program — which offers a sliding-scale pay structure — at our West Harlem Community Kitchen. (Interested in joining a CSA? Learn more!)

Even if you don’t get going until it turns to May, we hope you’ll celebrate National Gardening Month and help build a healthy NYC with the Food Bank!

Do you have any success stories of gardening with limited space in NYC? Help our neighbors get going — share your stories in the comments!

It’s Spring! Time to Dance!

by Daniel Buckley

Finally, it seems safe to say that spring is here! The sun is coming back, it’s getting warmer and little green shoots are appearing in gardens…and our CookShop Classroom for Elementary School students are learning about how those little sprouts will grow to become food.

An important aspect of CookShop, the Food Bank’s core nutrition education program for low-income children, teens and adults, is helping participants find out where food comes from. To learn about where fruit and vegetables grow, students read letters from farmers. To learn about how they grow, they dance!

Carrie Hildebrand, CookShop Site Monitoring Coordinator and star of our “’Like’ PSA,”  demonstrates the  Essentials of Growth Dance. The dance is a fun way for students to visualize and remember the five things plants need to grow: sun, soil, water, air and (of course) love and care. In our Plant Life Cycle Dance, our Volunteer Services Manager and blogger Brian Pham helps our students visualize and remember the six parts of a plant – seed, roots, stem, leaves, flower and fruit – and each part’s function in the plant life cycle.

So, in honor of the new season, take a moment out of your day, take a step back from your desk or that couch, and enjoy a little dancing!


The Essentials for Growth Dance! 

The Plant Life Cycle Dance!


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