Garden-to-table demos inspire healthy eating, thanks to NEEF grant

Apr 10, 2019 | News

Like most five-year-olds, Joshua Johnson is apprehensive when it comes to trying new vegetables. On a recent sunny Spring day, he found himself discovering leeks, beets and kohlrabi at Roosevelt’s community garden-to-table demonstration.

Joshua carefully examined the superfoods before giving them a chance.

The final verdict? He gave leeks and kohlrabi two thumbs up and a definite thumbs down to beets. Although the deep red earthy veggie didn’t get the seal of approval, Joshua’s mother, Tamika, couldn’t help but smile and commend her son for trying all the veggies. That’s all she was hoping for.

“At the very least, this is opening his eyes to new and exciting foods,” Tamika said. “We are learning about vegetables he has never tried and that I’ve never thought to try or don’t know how to prepare.”

This was their first-time attending Roosevelt’s community garden-to-table cooking demonstration and they’re excited to come back for the next one on April 17.

The goal behind the cooking demonstrations, held on the third Wednesday of every month at the Molly Pruitt Library, is to inspire participants to grow, cook and consume fresh garden produce so that they can improve their physical and mental health.

At the most recent cooking demonstration, Garden Club sponsor Misty Belmontez and her cooking compadres Kathleen Kredell and Sean Cox prepared leek and potato soup, roasted beets and prepared a kohlrabi, carrot and apple slaw. They highlighted the nutritional values of the garden produce and shared instructions on how to prepare the dishes using time saving equipment.

Garden Club, composed of Roosevelt HS students, was happy to help serve the food and provide knowledge on how they grew the vegetables.

“This really teaches a lot of people about how they get their food on their plates,” Roosevelt HS student and Garden Club member Vincent Hua said. “Not that many people know because a lot of them go to the grocery store and get their food there, but we grow our own vegetables.”

The idea for the garden-to-table cooking demonstrations was prompted by different individuals who kept asking how they can grow veggies at home and prepare them in a meal.

That idea became closer to a reality when the North East Educational Foundation funded Belmontez’ grant request in 2018 to purchase a mobile demonstration cooking cart. After some planning and preparation, the Garden Club hosted their first cooking demonstration in January.

Substitute teacher Guadalupe Smitha has attended all of the demonstrations so far and is a self-proclaimed ambassador for not only the garden-to-table demos, but also their community garden.

“I love fresh produce and all of their vegetables are delicious,” Smitha said. “Eating healthier makes me feel better and I have more energy.”

Roosevelt’s community garden was also funded by a NEEF grant in 2016. Cynthia McKinney’s environmental science classes help take care of the garden beds on one side and Garden Club, as well as ALE food science classes, take care of the other side.  In 2017, NEEF also funded a water conservation project for the garden.

“The three grants that we have received have definitely empowered individuals not only on our campus, but also in our community,” Belmontez said. “This garden is a beacon for our community and the cooking aspect of it just another layer. I can’t wait to see where it spurs on.”

For more information on Roosevelt’s Community Garden, visit their website here:

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