Our Growing Garden Team

Tracy in the garden

After two years as a FoodCorps Service Member, we’re excited to announce that Tracy Ryan has joined our staff as a Garden & Nutrition Educator! Thanks in part to the Oregon Department of Education Farm to School Grant, we’re expanding our garden team for the upcoming school year. Tracy served at Three Rivers School in Sunriver, where she provided nutrition and garden-based education lessons in many of the school’s classrooms. She also supported the wellness team in their efforts to plan and build their new outdoor school garden.

Tasty Tuesdays

As a FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy piloted a Tasty Challenge in the school cafeteria. This began as part of a national pilot with FoodCorps, where students tried the same vegetable prepared two different ways and chose their favorite. Research indicate that when a student chooses a “favorite,” they are more likely to try that item again in the future. The pilot went so well last school year  that she planned one for every month!

The Tasty Challenge became Tasty Tuesdays. We discovered that kids loved trying the items and voting for their favorite, and came to look forward to each month’s Tasty Tuesday. We were surprised when kids overwhelmingly chose roasted broccoli over a sweet broccoli salad, though not surprised when they chose sweet squash bread over roasted squash.

Adapting to COVID-19 in Schools

When schools shut down in March due to COVID-19, Tracy continued to support her students. She created garden and nutrition themed story time videos; check them out on our Garden Video Playlist! She ordered and assembled Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom activity kits for interested classrooms. And she assisted school site nutrition services staff assembling grab and go meals at the school. In addition to serving her site school, she also helped assemble and distribute over 1,000 Grab and Go Garden & Nutrition Activity Kits last spring to Redmond families at the school meal distribution site.

From Cooking Food to Preparing Snacks

This summer, Tracy helped strategize how we could still cook in the garden with kids while being safe in regards to COVID-19. As a result, our garden program continued to have a garden activity and a cooking activity that all the participating Boys & Girls Club kids got to participate in. (For five weeks over the course of the summer, we worked with two stable groups of 10 third grade students. These were the same kids who used our very own large meeting room at The Environmental Center as a home base all summer.)

For the cooking element this year, we went from preparing and cooking a shared meal to preparing an individual snack. These included making and eating a black bean dip (with a mortar and pestle!), “ants on a log,”  a lettuce wrap, pollinator salad, and a final garden harvest salad. Kids were set up with their own cutting board, a crinkle cutter for safe produce chopping, and other needed kitchen tools. Anytime we did garden harvesting, kids had their own colander to harvest and rinse from, and those items went into their own snack preparation. Other ingredients were divvied out for individual serving sizes, and kids prepared and ate their own garden snack. After eating and washing hands (again!) they washed their dishes and tools in our 3-step outdoor wash station, which includes a bleach sanitizing soak followed by air drying station.

Looking Ahead

As the 2020-21 school year kicks off, we’ll be adapting to Comprehensive Distance Learning alongside our whole community. Tracy will be working to support, maintain and expand the Three Rivers outdoor garden classroom while creating educational videos content. She will also navigate how to best support teachers with garden and nutrition-based learning opportunities. While we were excited to kick off and expand Tasty Tuesdays to 4 schools this year, we’re planning for the future and coming up with alternative ways to expose students and families to fresh healthy local food!