We, as humans, eat the roots of some plants. We pull them up by grabbing onto their stems at the end of their life cycle. In the case of a little root full of vitamin A, we harvest it when the leaves begin to turn from green to yellow. Deep underground, a surprise us buried which most resembles what most people recognize in the produce section of the grocery store wrapped in a 5 pound bag. School garden sweet potatoes though, are irregularly shaped and vary in size. The harvest of these orange edible roots becomes an exercise in discovery, sifting, and measuring for students in their school garden.
The orange interior of the sweet potato is a vibrant surprise to most students I work with. A sweet potato’s smooth exterior skin spotted with eyes looks no different than one they eat in fry, baked, or mashed form. During the month of March, the FoodPrints classes I assisted with at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary and John Tyler Elementary mashed, roasted, and baked sweet potatoes for over 600 students. (recipes found here) After the votes came in during our March Harvest of the Month Taste Tests, both schools measured a 74% approval rating of our roasted version in the cafeteria.
My personal hope is that these positive experiences FoodCorps members are bringing to schools around the country trigger a sense of joy in our kids. For that next time a child sees a potato growing in the garden, smells it roasting from the kitchen, tastes is in a new dish, feels the skin while cutting it open, or hears about how a sweet potato is full of Vitamin A to help protect their eyes; they are excited about the potential to discover something new.
Teaching elementary school students was not a skill I possessed or was even familiar with when I began my FoodCorps service term in September 2014. Patience, persistence, and confidence have now come my way after becoming a part of a DC Public School system which cares for the health of their students and their families. Thanks to all of the excited parents, teachers, administrators, grandparent volunteers, and especially kids for a great year of service so far!