School Produce Stand Feeds Families in Oakland | Civil Eats

School Produce Stand Feeds Families in Oakland

Care to sample a strawberry or scoop up salad greens for supper when you pick up your child from school? Since school went back last September you can do just that every Tuesday at Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, California.

Led by garden coordinator and parent Delana Toler, a small core of volunteers — some without kids at the school — work a PTA-initiated produce stand for two hours after classes are dismissed in the front yard of this public school, which serves a diverse group of families in the foothills east of Lake Merritt.

Unlike Windrush School farm stand profiled here previously, Glenview’s goal isn’t to raise school funds by selling produce. Instead, this stand serves simply to educate parents, students, and staff about seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables, and offer such produce at competitive prices, thanks to the generosity of Farmer Joe’s, a natural grocery store in the community, which supplies the stand at close to cost. (The grocer has also donated a greenhouse for the school garden.)

Parent volunteer Mark Halmi mans a tasting table to encourage folks to try unfamiliar produce. Last week Mark sauteed Swiss chard with garlic and raisins; a recent tasting made purple potato converts out of many pupils and their parents.

There’s a free piece of fruit to any child who comes equipped with a reusable tote to take produce home. (The PTA received a grant to distribute a Glenview produce bag, complete with an eye-catching mosaic design, above, to every child in the school.) Last-minute gleaners snap up whatever produce is left after most folks have long gone home.

On a visit last Tuesday I picked up a punnet of raspberries for $3.89 (they currently retail for $6.99 at my local grocer), along with rainbow chard, kiwi fruit, Arkansas black apples, and French fingerlings. Delighted that my son has recently discovered potatoes, these creamy tubers were delicious thinly sliced, sauteed & seasoned.

Depending on the season and the variety of local, organic produce available, Delana spends between $300 and $500 to stock the stand each week. And the better part of her Tuesday is consumed with stand duties.

Delana grew up on a farm in Oregon; pretty much everything the family ate came off their land. She sees the school’s vegetable garden and produce stand as a way for kids in more urban settings, including her daughter Dylan, to connect with food and where it comes from.

On a recent visit one teacher opened a window and called out: “I’m ready for you to take my order.” If principal Deitra Atkins can’t stop by the tasting table a sample is delivered to her office. Parents and kids cruise pass as school gets out with bags in tow.

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Glenview is one of 10 farmers’ markets opened this fall in Oakland public schools. The other stands, the result of a partnership between the school district and East Bay Asian Youth Center, are mainly located in low-income areas in so-called “food deserts,” parts of the city in which fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find, writes reporter Katy Murphy in a recent story for the Oakland Tribune.

What do you think of such programs operating on school grounds? At a time when school gardens in California have come under attack from some pretty snarky quarters, I’m curious to hear what others have to say about schools getting into the business of growing and selling food on campus.

(For a well-reasoned rebuttal to The Atlantic’s “Cultivating Failure,” penned by the frequently contrarian Caitlin Flanagan, check out this Civil Eats story by slow food chef Kurt Michael Friese.)

Given my background, perhaps I’m biased, but I see tremendous benefits in an edible education and few downsides to feeding kids fresh food.

What say you?

Photos: Joseph Bansuelo

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Originally published on Lettuce Eat Kale

Sarah Henry is a freelance reporter whose food articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Grist and Eating Well. Sarah is a contributing editor to Edible East Bay and a regular contributor to Edible San Francisco and KQED’s Bay Area Bites. She has also written about local food for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and California. Sarah got her journalism start on staff at the Center for Investigative Reporting. Sarah is the voice behind the blog Lettuce Eat Kale and tweets under that moniker too. Read more >

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  1. Anything that gets kids to eat more vegetables is a good thing. And something that brings parents and kids together through a community-building produce stand before the drive/walk/bike home? Awesome.

    In my experience, kids don't generally like vegetables, especially strange vegetables. But if they see their peers, their teachers, and their parents enjoying vegetables, they are much more likely to try them with an open mind and even like them.

    It is extraordinarily clear from all the recent news on school lunches and food deserts that a large majority of Americans are not getting enough fresh vegetables in their diets, particularly children.

    So this produce stand? An excellent start. As for The Atlantic's Ms. Flanagan? She should perhaps look at the writing on the wall and either reconsider or hold her tongue. : )
  2. This is wonderful and heartening, a great counterpoint to the tragedy we just had in NY.
    The current system is destroying our food system and our farmers.

    Oakland's out in front,isn't it? Educating kids about food, empowering kids with Good Cents For Oakland...great stuff.
  3. Nina
    What a testament to local, family-owned businesses. Farmer Joe's is a small (two-store?) chain started in Oakland, known and loved by many. I somehow don't think that a huge multinational grocery chain would have been so generous to this small (yet important) community effort. Thanks for highlighting it. =)
  4. Sarah: You're so right, kids are more likely to try something new if their peers eat it too.

    Susan: Yes, there's great stuff happening in Oakland on the food front and this is just one shining example.

    Nina: Thanks for highlighting the generosity of a local, family-owned business that's making this produce stand possible. Another reason why it's important to support your community (green) grocer.

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