This weekend Soil Born Farms hosted 'A Garden in Every School Symposium' at Luther Berbank High School. As a volunteer opportunity for Sacramento Slow Food, I assisted chef Brenda Ruiz from Biba. Brenda teaches food literacy classes in local schools. She is specifically interested in incorporating food literacy into ESL courses.
For the weekend, we focused on two presentations. The first was Teaching to English Language Learners: Developing Taste. Here, Brenda developed an exercise with cilantro, romaine lettuce, lime, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar. She had the attendees try each element by itself and explain in terms of palate: bitter, sweet, salty, sour. Slowly the participants were asked to combine different flavors to eventually form a salad that incorporated all of one's palate. Afterward, she discussed teaching techniques for English Language Learners and how they specifically related to teaching food literacy.
Within this session, the feedback was incredibly interesting. Several teachers had ELL classes, where the majority of students had different native languages; therefore it was incredibly necessary to focus on the grading of the language. Other teachers gave examples of how their schools were already incorporating multi-cultural food literacy through potlucks and parent-student cooking classes.
On Sunday, the sessions were less lecture style and more experiential. Brenda facilitated a lesson with few instructions that encouraged participant creativity. Before everyone arrived, we placed all the required equipment on the table (knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls, mixing spoons, towels). We then created trays full of different vegetables or fruit such as a tray with different kinds of lettuces (focusing on bitterness) or one with various types of citrus (focusing on sour and sweet). The class was required to create a salad with their ingredients and create a presentation explaining the process and the parts of the palate that their salad activated.
It was fun to see the how creative the students were know matter what age. Additionally, I believe the course was a good learning moment for many because they were not familiar with all of the names and tastes of the ingredients included in their baskets. The weekend opened my eyes to how much our communities need food literacy in order to take advantage of the abundance of produce we have in the US.