We celebrated Food Day at Hoover Elementary in Oakland the best way we knew how. For lunch we served the students a lunch of beautiful local organic butternut squash, and chili that was made of grass-fed, antibiotic-free local beef, and of organic tomatoes and pinto beans grown on farms not too far away. We encouraged child after child to try something new, we asked them their opinions on the squash, on the chili, and we talked to them about the importance of sustainability, seasonality, and focusing on real, recognizable ingredients for their meals.
There were dozens of valuable interactions, and dozens of faces lighting up when they tasted a new food and discovered that they liked eating it. The most memorable feedback we got was from Azia Williams, a kindergartner who approached us after having combined her two sample cups of chili and squash into one.
“I put them together and mixed them and I think it tastes better like that,” she told us seriously.
“That’s great! You created a new recipe!” I replied enthusiastically. “Did you know that you were that good at creating recipes?”
“Nope,” she replied.
“You know, people make up new recipes all the time. When you’re grown up, you could be a chef and create new recipes.”
Azia glowed. “Well, I think I want to be a chef when I grow up then, because I’m really good at it.”
Though FoodCorps service is full of surprises, it never fails to feel redemptive. Service takes the two things I think will be the most important tools for changing the world for the better – education and food – and combines them in the most tremendous and creative ways. I get to use food as a locus for change daily, and on the most important days, it does what it did at Hoover Elementary: it supports, nourishes, inspires, and empowers young minds.