By Jane Black, for the Stone Barns Center’s blog
When Maddy Wierzel started teaching at Jettie S. Tisdale Elementary, many of the 28 fifth graders in her class had never tasted a string bean, let alone a yellow pole bean or a watermelon radish or the purple potatoes she was showing them pictures of. And so, naturally, the kids had a lot of questions: Do purple potatoes taste like potatoes? (Yes.) Can you make French fries with them? (Yes.) Can you make home fries? (Yes, anything you can do with regular potatoes, you can do with purple ones.)
It takes time and patience to teach 10-year-olds to love vegetables, especially if they are tasting many of them for the first time. Tisdale Elementary is in Bridgeport, Conn. A once-thriving factory town, today the city has a per-capita annual income of only $16,000—this, despite the fact that it is only 30 miles from Greenwich, home to hedge-fund managers and power lawyers who make it one of the richest towns in America. Wierzel is a member of FoodCorps, a small but growing army of good-food evangelists who are deployed to help give children in low-income communities what co-founder Jerusha Klemperer calls an “enduring relationship with healthy food.” Wierzel is now in her second year on the job, one of this year’s 182 FoodCorps service members in 16 states plus the District of Columbia.