Another FoodCorps Year in the Books!

FoodCorps is a nationwide organization under the AmeriCorps umbrella. Service members are in 18 states working to connect kids to healthy food in school. Their work focuses on three areas of service: hands on learning, healthy school meals, and supporting a school wide culture of health.

Here in Oregon, our service member, Tracy Ryan, was one of a cohort of 10 members serving at different sites. Service members are able to choose to serve a second year, and we are thrilled that Tracy has elected to serve an additional year with us! FoodCorps elevates all the work we do in our Garden For Every School program, and we look forward to deepening our experience in the year ahead. Here some highlights of the great work Tracy accomplished this past year.

Hands-on Learning

Tracy served intensively at Three Rivers School in Sunriver, reaching 280 students through hands-on classroom presentations about gardening and nutrition and a school-wide cafeteria tasting. She led weekly nutrition and garden related lessons in the Three Rivers ‘”garden room” at school. She worked with Wellness Committee teachers to utilize their three indoor mobile garden carts created from shopping carts. They were able to harvest from this indoor garden multiple times throughout the school year! (Our previous FoodCorps Service Member, Claire Londagin, was instrumental in assisting teachers researching designs and equipment to make this successful.) Tracy made herself Tracy in carrot costumeknown throughout the school, even in classes she didn’t work with. She was a regular presence in the cafeteria – teaching kids about portion sizes, identifying new salad bar offerings, and simply modeling eating healthy lunches. (It also didn’t hurt that she was known as as the “carrot lady” by wearing a carrot costume at multiple school-wide events!)

Tracy taught 111 students for over 10 hours, which is FoodCorps’ benchmark that has been shown to make the most impact in children’s behavior change regarding trying new foods. This was confirmed when Vegetable Preference survey results from two classrooms that received over 13 hours of FoodCorps instruction revealed that more than half of the students reported improved nutrition choices. Students indicated a positive change in their vegetable preferences when compared to the same survey at the start of the school year.

Tracy also supported Bear Creek Elementary School’s weekly in-school Garden Club, and had a weekly presence in their cafeteria supporting healthy school breakfast and lunch choices.

Healthy School Meals

Through FoodCorps, we participated in a nationwide pilot project called the Tasty Challenge, where kids tried a sample of one food prepared two different ways, then voted on their favorite. This method is backed by research that indicates when someone has to choose one item as their favorite, they are more inclined to consider trying that item again – as opposed to just saying they liked it or didn’t like it. The students loved trying fresh carrots vs roasted carrots and voting for their favorite. (Fresh carrots won that round!) The Nutrition Services staff at school were so on board with how smooth it went, they have already worked with Tracy to pencil out a Tuesday Tasting every month for the upcoming school year! We are excited about the potential of collaborating with Nutrition Services in this way, and see opportunities for highlighting how the cafeteria is also an important part of a student’s educational experience at school.

School-wide Culture of Health

Our team also supported Wellness Committee teachers to think through and complete the Bend La Pine School District’s new School Garden Development Application, as well as meeting with the BLPS District Staff to ensure that all parties were on the same page. As a result, Three Rivers courtyard garden will be the district’s first outdoor school garden to be officially approved since this process has been put in place! They have already started to receive in-kind and financial support, and will begin building when school starts in the fall. Tracy is looking forward to helping build this garden, and more importantly, to support teachers wanting to integrate the outdoor and indoor garden into their existing curriculum for the long term.

THANK YOU, TRACY! It’s been a fantastic year and we’re just getting started.

Summer in a School Garden

Here in Central Oregon, the prime growing season is exactly when school is out of session. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any use for a school garden! There are tons of ways to get students involved throughout the school year, from planning indoors in the winter months to hands on garden work outdoors in the fall and spring. But there still is the reality of what happens to a school garden when school is out? Here are some ways that local schools do – or could do – to deal with this reality.

  • Family Volunteers

    Some schools have a generous point person volunteer that loves gardening and wants to own this project. Others have asked student families to sign up for one week over the summer to come visit the garden and do some maintenance work. This works best when the garden is in an accessible location at the school (and you have willing volunteers!)

  • School Garden Champion

    In this case, one teacher has either officially or is the self appointed garden champion, and they take it upon themselves to check on it over the summer. If this is you, we recommend you work to form a Garden Committee next school year, because you may eventually burn out. On a lighter note, our garden grants (available in the fall)  can be used to cover up to $500 stipend for a teacher that is the garden champion, especially over summer break.

  • Summer Programming

    Some school locations have summer activities happening at the school already, either by the school itself or by a youth organization utilizing the site over the summer to run their programs out of. This can be a great way to get youth involved in the garden over the summer, enrich their programming, and make sure that someone is taking care of the garden. Also be open to youth programs nearby? Partnerships can be mutually beneficial in this way. For years we have worked with Amity Elementary School and the Downtown Bend Boys & Girls Club, both within walking distance, as a way to have students experiencing the garden through it’s entire growing season.

  • School Year Gardening

    Some schools ensure summer success by only growing during the school year. This is most appropriate for smaller indoor year round growing type set ups. However, there are some ways to plant an outdoor school garden specifically designed for only school year harvesting.

    • Plant spring crops that can go in early as soon as the soil can be worked (peas, spinach, radish) and harvest whatever comes up by the end of the school year. Your peas will not have reached maturity, but your students will be blown away that they can eat pea leaves that indeed taste like peas!
    • Plant things that can stay in the ground until students return in the fall, and are fairly low maintenance. Ideas include carrots, beets, potatoes, onion. They can plant garlic in the fall, you come back and harvest it when it’s ready in late July or so, hang em up to dry and they will be ready to join the other roots veggies for a roasted veggie meal or a soup. Another idea is to plant beans at the end of the school year when it’s warmed up, and then leave them on the vine. You’ll come back to dried beans (or still drying) that can be saved for replanting, sent home with students, or turned into a soup for a class harvest celebration meal.
    • Make seed tape with your students to accurately space out those tiny carrot and beet seeds, that way you don’t even need to spend time thinning out the seedlings in the summer. Also it makes a great wintertime/early spring indoor classroom activity to prep for your garden.

Let us know if you do, saw, or heard of other ideas for school garden summer maintenance. Happy Gardening!

The Dirt on School Gardens: Spring 2019

Our dream of a ‘garden for every school’ is becoming reality! Here are some recent highlights as kick off another season:

  • We approved garden grant requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet their own unique needs and goals.
  • Our Garden Educator Network is now comprised of 117 educators in our region! The most recent workshop, “Spring Activities in the School Garden,” offered hands-on lesson ideas and a tour around the OSU Extension demonstration gardens.
  • Our FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy, is working with students at Three Rivers Elementary and Bear Creek Elementary schools. As part of a national pilot project with FoodCorps, she just conducted a ‘Tasty Challenge’ at Three Rivers, where students tried one vegetable prepared two ways and selected their favorite. Nutrition Services have since planned out a fresh food tasting once per month in the coming school year!
  • Bend-La Pine School District implemented a School Garden Development Application that we helped to develop. Last month, the first permanent outdoor raised bed garden has been approved by the district.

Lastly, our own Kansas Ave. Learning Garden is thriving! Swing by for Happy Hour in the Garden, a fun volunteer event, each Tuesday from 4-6pm.

Learn more about the Garden For Every School Initiative. 

2019 Garden Grants Award Winners

The Environmental Center is proud to announce the winners of their annual Garden Grant Program.

Through community, business, and foundation support, we approved requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. Schools receiving award funds include: Crooked River Elementary School, Seed to Table Educational Farm for Sisters Elementary School & Sisters High School, Three Rivers School, REALMS High School, Waldorf School of Bend, Wonder Years Preschool, and Desert Sky Montessori School.

Projects include relocating a large donated greenhouse; building new raised beds; critter-proofing existing garden beds; turning an unused bike rack into a temporary mini greenhouse; improving outdoor classroom space; purchasing garden supplies and curriculum; and building a rainwater fed container garden.

“Once again we are excited about the innovative ideas that schools are coming up with to connect their students to plants, food and our environment through school gardens,” said Denise Rowcroft, School Gardens Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet the unique needs and goals of their own school community.”

The goal of The Environmental Center’s Garden Grant Program is to provide local funding for public and private Pre K – 12 schools in Central Oregon to build or support a school garden. Gardens can be indoors, or an outdoor classroom, depending on the needs and goals of each school.

“Local schools are fortunate to have opportunities like the Garden For Every School Program,” said Jackie Wilson, Bend La-Pine School District Sustainability Coordinator. “It helps students to connect to meaningful experiences outside the classroom and to become thriving and sustainability-minded citizens.”

Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. Garden grants is one strategy in The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School program. As part of this program, The Environmental Center also provides technical assistance to schools, has a FoodCorps service member to connect kids to healthy food in schools through garden and nutrition lessons, organizes local Garden Educator Network trainings and events, and operates the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden. Our garden grant funds this year were raised through donations from almost 60 local community members, generous businesses, and foundations.

Residential Composting Pilot in Bend

Last week, Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal announced that they’ll be introducing a residential food waste pilot program to some areas in Bend. About 300 households from each company will participate in the pilot, which allows customers to put more food in their standard yard debris bins for curbside collection and composting. (Raw fruit and veggie scraps can currently be added to this bin. During the pilot program, they will accept meat, dairy, bakery items, and more.) If all goes well, residential composting could be available to all of their customers sometime in 2019. We’re very excited to hear this news, because it’s estimated that 26% of Knott Landfill is food waste!

We have partnered with both haulers to provide food waste prevention information for those selected for the pilot, including an Eat First card: a tool from our Rethink Food Waste Toolkit that helps you separate out foods in your fridge that need to be eaten first so they don’t end up in the compost pile. Of course we want to keep food out of the landfill and turn it into beautiful and useful compost, but we encourage you to prevent food waste in the first place. Sign up for our Rethink Food Waste Challenge to learn more and access helpful resources around food waste prevention.

You can read the full press from Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal here.

 
View the article from from KTVZ.

Celebrating Five Years of Repair Cafés in Central Oregon

On Thursday, October 18, 2018, it will be exactly nine years since Martine Postma organized the very first Repair Café in Amsterdam. Today there are over 1,600 Repair Cafés in 33 countries on six continents. Here in our own backyard, The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project organized the first local event five years ago at Pakit Liquidators, which has since transformed into the shared maker space, DIY Cave.

Repair Cafés are events that connect people with broken stuff, with people who like to fix stuff. Over the past five years, over 400 items have been repaired through 15 local events with different host partners including The Gear Fix, DIY Cave, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Deschutes Public Library, Central Oregon Community College, and more.

“For us, Repair Cafés fit into the mission of the Rethink Waste Project by preventing tangible waste through repair instead of replacement,” said Denise Rowcroft, Rethink Waste Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “But the really cool side effect of having repair events is less tangible – it’s about connecting people to their stuff in a way that gets them thinking about how they consume and the purchases they make, which is ultimately where we have more impact.”

Repair Cafés are free and staffed by volunteer fixers. Volunteers bring their own tools and variety of expertise, and will often troubleshoot difficult-to-repair items together or share tools. They have expertise in small appliances and electronics, clothing, outdoor gear, jewelry, and small furniture. Rowcroft added that volunteers receive a lot of satisfaction in keeping things out of the landfill, and attendees often really enjoy their interactions with volunteers and learning more about repair.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a global network of people, helping each other out by fixing stuff. It’s building community and resilience, and it’s just really fun.”

Shortly following International Repair Café Week, October 13 -21, the next local Repair Café will be on October 30, 2018 at the Redmond Public Library from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. People can bring in multiple items for repair, but are asked to sign up for one at a time so as not to dominate one volunteer for the whole evening.

“Repair café events are a perfect fit for Library programming,” said Liz Goodrich of the Deschutes Public Library. “These fun, community-based events provide opportunities for the volunteers to share their skills with participants.”

EVENT DETAILS

WHAT: Redmond Repair Cafe 

WHEN: Tuesday October 30th 2018, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. 

WHERE: Redmond Public Library, 827 SW Deschutes Ave, Redmond, OR 97756

Garden For Every School Fall 2018 Update

We are excited to be kicking off another school year rolling out our Garden for Every School initiative – our community effort to support school garden development in a way that is unique to each school’s needs, and done so with long-term sustainability in mind. To begin the school year, 14 local garden educators (potentially reaching over 700 students) gathered at The Environmental Center in mid-September for a training with OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program staff on the topic of Building Capacity with a School Garden Committee. With support from the Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Network, we act as the Central Oregon Regional Hub for school garden education, and we organize these events that feature trainings, resource sharing, and school garden tours as one of our strategies to support a garden for every school.

Thanks to strong community support, our summer garden grant campaign successfully raised $10,000 to support school garden projects in Central Oregon. The grants application period is now open, and the application, information, and highlights from last years’ grants are all available here, under the Garden Grants tab. Deadline is November 19th.

We’d like to thank our 2018 Garden For Every School business sponsors who make this initiative possible:

We would also like to officially welcome our new FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy Ryan. FoodCorps mission is to connect kids to healthy food in their schools.

During the 2018-2019 school-year, Tracy will be serving in Bear Creek Elementary School in Bend and Three Rivers School in Sunriver. Tracy will support activities in Bear Creek’s outdoor garden and assist with with indoor gardening and healthy food lessons during their weekly Friday afternoon Garden Club. This club is offered as an elective class to all Bear Creek students. She will also facilitate their staff Garden Committee’s collaboration on how best to serve students through hands-on activities in both the garden (their outside classroom) as well as the indoor classroom.

At Three Rivers School, Tracy will be working with the school’s Wellness Committee and their very creative indoor “mobile garden” that is housed in their Garden Room. Tracy will utilize this room throughout the school year to provide hands-on activities and lessons in gardening and healthy food lessons for K-5 classes.

Tracy will also be serving in the cafeteria of both schools by role modeling healthy food choices as well as encouraging students to try new foods. She looks forward to supporting Bend-La Pine School District’s Wellness Policy goals of healthy eating patterns and increased physical activity, which are essential for students to achieve their full academic potential, full physical and mental growth, and lifelong health and well-being.

Here at our own Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, the 5th graders at Amity Creek Elementary School came full circle by returning to the garden to harvest what they planted last spring as 4th graders. Back at their school, students prepped and ate delicious roasted root veggies, kale chips and tomato bruschetta.

An additional thank you to all the volunteers who helped out in our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden during the Tuesday Happy Hour in the Garden series! Don’t forget we have one more fall work party on October 20th, if you’re available to lend a hand.

Show us your clean campsite to win!

Camping is a great way to enjoy nature, spend time with your crew, and find some peace & quiet. But if you’re generating a lot of trash on your weekend adventures, it’s a real burn on Mother Earth. In this short video, we share some great tips on how to have a CLEAN CAMPSITE!
 
Now it’s your turn. Take a picture of something you do (or bring) while camping that helps reduce waste. Tag your photos #cleancampsite, and mention The Environmental Center, and you could win a prize package of reusable camp gear. Submit your photos through Labor Day! Full details on this giveaway can be found here.

Garden Grants Award Winners Announced

The Environmental Center is proud to announce the winners of their inaugural Garden Grant Program.

Through community, business and foundation support, $7,500 in funds were awarded to seven school garden projects throughout Central Oregon. Schools receiving award funds include: Bear Creek Elementary, Bend International School, Sisters Elementary School, Three Rivers School, REALMS, Seed to Table Educational Farm, and Henry Slater Elementary School. Outdoor infrastructure projects include installing irrigation, building deer fencing, and improving outdoor classroom space. Indoor projects include classroom growing, improved greenhouse production, and building indoor mobile garden carts.

“We were excited to learn about all the new gardens and improvements to current school gardens that are underway in our community,” said Denise Rowcroft, Sustainability Educator with The Environmental Center. “Though $14,000 was requested, we were only able to award half of that. This validates the need in our community for funding innovative projects like these that connect kids to where food comes from.”

The goal of The Environmental Center’s Garden Grant program is to provide local funding for public and private schools in Central Oregon to start, expand, improve or support a new or existing garden or outdoor classroom. Gardens can be indoor or outdoor, edible and/or native/pollinator gardens.

“We at Three Rivers School are excited to be afforded the opportunity to build mobile garden carts and begin growing not only food, but also interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities for our students,” said Rebecca Fender, Third Grade Teacher and Wellness Committee member. “We believe this project will encourage critical thinking, help establish mindful eating habits, and develop interest in becoming environmental stewards.”

Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. This garden grant program is one strategy in The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School initiative.  As part of this initiative, The Environmental Center also provides technical assistance to schools, has hired a FoodCorps service member to connect kids to healthy food in schools, and organizes a local Garden Educator Network. The next scheduled Garden Educator Network meeting is after-school on February 6, 2018. Contact Denise Rowcroft for more information.

These garden grants are supported by local business sponsorships and foundation grants, including:

Bend Whole Foods Marketplace
Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation
Next Level Burger
Saginaw Sunset
Chambers Family Foundation
Bank of the Cascades
Savory Spice
El Sancho
Central Oregon Beekeeping Association

It’s a Repair Revolution!

Two generations ago, most people could handle simple repairs, and most things manufactured were inherently repairable. Fast forward to our current state of fast consumerism, where things are made to be obsolete within 6 months. All that “instant garbage” has to go somewhere. But the bigger impact, the one we don’t witness, is all the materials extracted, then wasted, to turn raw materials into products that are then shipped overseas and trucked across the country to a store – only to break within a year.

But we’re starting to see people return to REPAIRS. Its resurgence can be attributed to many things: A growing maker movement sweeping the nation. People getting fed up with cheap crap. A feeling of pride that comes from being self-reliant. Or the emergence of repair events. It’s also encouraging to see the popularity of Patagonia’s Worn Wear program, which has put repairing clothing in the public eye and made it more accessible to more communities. Whatever the reasons, people are getting into repair all over the world. And it’s about time!

READ THE FULL REPAIR REVOLUTION’ BLOG ON THE RETHINK WASTE PROJECT WEBSITE 

The Environmental Center operates a program called Rethink Waste Project. Through this program, we provide waste prevention/reduction education for Deschutes County residents through a partnership with Deschutes County Department of Solid Waste and our local garbage and recycling service providers. We work together to provide consistent information to the community regarding ideas for preventing waste in the first place, and options for responsible material management. You may be familiar with our Zero Waste stations at events around Bend, or perhaps you’ve seen a Rethink Waste presentation during a staff meeting or community gathering.

p1050092Since 2013, the Rethink Waste Project has organized 11 Repair Cafes – events that bring together volunteer ‘fixers’ and people with broken stuff. Our volunteers are hobbyists, professionals, and avid tinkerers. They attempt to repair broken items such as small furniture, appliances, jewelry, outdoor gear, clothes, and more. Our Repair Cafe events have fixed over 300 items and have provided DIY instructions on another 50. We just held our Fall Repair Cafe last Saturday, November 18th. But don’t worry! You can catch our Spring Repair Cafe on Thursday, April 5th at Ensworth Elementary School from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.