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Boise High Food Summit

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EricW //

Every trip I've made to visit food trucks in cities all across the country has been a memorable learning experience.  And, of course, it's been a valuable way to meet mobile food vendors to introduce myself and to share the vision for On each visit, my understanding of the industry as a whole grows, and gives me a better grasp of what's special and different about each city.

But my visit last week, to Boise ID, included a particularly educational and unique experience.  

As always, when I plan a trip to a city, I contact some of the area food trucks to see if there's some food truck or special event while I'm in town. When I checked into the possibilities in Boise, there seemed to be no special events so it looked as if I'd be traveling around Boise visiting food trucks wherever they'd be setting up for lunch or dinner; in itself, a good day!

Then, just about a week before my trip, I was informed that about six food trucks would be serving lunch to the student body at Boise High. But, not only that, the trucks would be using produce from the school managed, Downtown Teaching Farm. Lunch was part of a larger event being put on the by the school called the Boise High Food Summit. For me, this was something new and exciting. I was not aware that any public school system was managing or was involved in managing community gardens! The more I learned, the more impressive it was! 

And, the food truck lunch was just the kickoff of the afternoon. After lunch, Boise High was turned into a conference center for the Boise High Food Summit.  The afternoon was broken into two keynote sessions and over 20 panel discussions put on, and run, by students. The entire student body spent the afternoon attending and choosing between the keynote sessions and panel discussions.

The event sounded so informative and interesting that I stayed and attended three student run sessions:  The negative aspects of factory farming, How to get good from the Downtown Teaching Farm to our school cafeteria, and Food Corporations and the Way it Works. Each of these sessions was well thought out and educational.

I was so impressed with the event that I reached out to Ms. Ali Ward a member of the team of teachers and administrators who put the program together.  I asked her about the history of the Downtown Teaching Farm and how the Boise High Food Summit came to be. This is what she shared:

“The Downtown Teaching Farm began as the Downtown Community Garden about 6 years ago with some raised (vegetable) beds and neighborhood organizers. The lot is owned by the Cathedral of the Rockies and had been vacant for a better part of a decade.  The community garden was entering a leadership gap, and that is when we stepped in, as a school, to help as organizers.  We made the proposal (as a team of science teachers) to the church that we would manage it as a small urban school farm, and involve the neighbors as community gardeners.  Since that time, we have added the long rows (in the garden) and improved the drip irrigation. This is our fourth growing season since taking the leadership role as a science department. Each year more and more teachers are involving their students at the DTFarm, in a wide variety of courses. We estimate that at least 1000 students a year make it over there in some capacity. Most of the "work" is done in the Environmental Science classes and by the community gardeners. 

The food summit, (a food themed student-to-student conference) was a natural outgrowth of so many of us using food/agriculture/sustainability as research topics in our courses.  The conference idea was proposed by Ms. Anna Daley, whose students had been doing inquiry projects regarding the question "What is good food?" in their sophomore year.  Many of those students are now seniors, and have continued to discuss their project in other classes, and some of them did, indeed, present at the Food Summit.  Other students' proposed new project or visions, and conducted independent research.

We then decided that any good food summit would involve good food.  Food trucks have become very popular, so we thought maybe we could host something like that! I coordinated the schedule and gathered a big harvest box for each food truck from the students' produce.  This was so satisfying for me to know that some of our student-grown food would be served to the students. 

The food trucks were such a huge hit with the students and staff. I hope we can do more farm-to-truck events at the garden. I feel so incredibly lucky that everyone was willing to work together on this experiment over the past several years, and especially the last few weeks. The entire day was truly a collaborative effort. 

For the future, we intend to continue improving our farm-table offerings through the school, harvests for needy students and their families, and perhaps some salable goods.  We do not intend to sell the produce, but sometimes we might want to sell some products, such as seeds, flowers, or festival style harvests.  We are also going to be partnering with the Boise Co-Op and the Boise Farmer's Market to offer some children's programming.  We would also like to conduct some gardening clinics.  I would also like to start offering some professional development opportunities for educators that manage their schools' gardens and create a more collaborative community for curricula, seeds, equipment, and people management ideas.”

Often I hear, read and think about the problems we face across the country with our education system as well as issues with nutrition, the food industry and overall healthful eating of our children. The challenges are so broad and the solutions complex.But, my unexpected time spent at the Boise High Food Summit left me optimistic and enthusiastic. It was such a pleasant and unexpected surprise to discover the value that Boise high puts on the marriage of education and food production, and that food trucks were brought in to help illustrate healthy local eating. 

Here is the full list of the day’s events:

 Keynote Panelists:

Janie Burns (Treasure Valley Food Coalition), Ariel Agenbroad (U of I Extension), Tim Somner (Purple Sage Farms), Christy Smith (Boise Schools Head Nutritionist), Katie Painter and Abdikadir Chimwaga (Global Gardens) and Erin Guerricabeitia (Executive Director of Boise Urban Garden School-BUGS

Student Run Sessions:

  •  Amour: “Why Americans should eat more like Africans to avoid obesity”
  •  Riley and Elyse: "Why Michelle Obama is Right-Schools Need to be Healthier"
  •  Vera and Kristal: “Scary ingredients in your food”
  •  Kiana: “Positives in worm composting, and differences between regular and worm compost”
  • Tara: “Benefits and uses of Kale”
  • Will with Zoe: “The importance of honey and bees”
  • Parker: “Economics, politics, and social impacts of GMO’s”
  • Nicole: “Gluten: How it affects us, how it has changed, and how your life can be changed by avoiding gluten”
  • Bailey: “Ideas of quick, healthy, portable foods for high-schoolers”
  • Justin: “Community Gardening and How To Feed an Entire City using Wasted Space” Room 406
  • Sienna and Maya: “Helping Everyone Mix Plants: Hemp 2014”
  • Grady: “Hydroculture- A Possible Solution to the Future Problems of Farming”
  • Maggie: "How to get good from the Downtown Teaching Farm to our school cafeteria"
  • Savannah:  “Vegetarianism- Benefits to your health and to animals”
  • Arbay: “Cooking healthy and on the cheap: a cooking demo”
  • Naia: “The negative aspects of factory farming”
  • Phibal: “Food in Urban Areas”
  • Gorka and Jake: “The Science of Ice Cream”
  • Katrina and Ashley: "Food Corporations and the Way it Works"
  • Devon: “Animal cruelty in the food production industry”
  • Emily: “The Evolution of Choice: Market mirroring of cells, and the path of GMOs”
  • Emily and Sophie: “Celiac disease (wheat intolerance, gluten free diet, fad diet/lifestyle)”
  • Jonny: “How business models impact our food system”
  • Kallee: “Why we should change our school food”
  • Jessica and Alison: “Why we should have a food policy group”
  • Laura: “Why people should guerilla garden”

You can read more about our visit to Boise and see more pictures from the visit here!