Monday, December 5, 2022
Dec. 5, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Slow Foods nourishes At Home At School kids

Nonprofit's locally sourced nutrition feeds children at summer program

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
5 Photos
Employees at Fuel Bistro in Ridgefield prepare trays of local, farm fresh lunches Thursday for low-income kids in a WSUV summer program.
Employees at Fuel Bistro in Ridgefield prepare trays of local, farm fresh lunches Thursday for low-income kids in a WSUV summer program. Photo Gallery

Garden to Table Youth Mural

A 16- by 4-foot sectional mural was created this summer by the children of Washington State University Vancouver’s At Home At School program as they learned about food heritage, food justice and local food systems.

The mural will be unveiled Aug. 7 at Angst Gallery (Niche Wine Bar and Cafe), 1015 Main St., Vancouver, during the First Friday Art Walk.

Warren Neth of Slow Foods Southwest Washington is eager to find other homes for the mobile mural — such as food pantries, farmers markets, other community gathering spots. Contact Neth at 360-771-1296 or visit http://www.slowfoodswwa.com/home

The children enrolled in the At Home At School summer school program at Washington State University Vancouver used to get fed by Share, the nonprofit agency that specializes in housing and sustaining the hungry and homeless. Which might make some sense, since many of these third- through eighth-graders are living in shelters or otherwise close to the edge; the point of At Home At School is to provide an alternative educational environment that gets around some of the serious barriers that impoverished children face every day.

But the lunch offerings, while perfectly decent, weren’t exactly gourmet, according to At Home At School teacher and WSUV graduate student Nicole Russell.

Garden to Table Youth Mural

A 16- by 4-foot sectional mural was created this summer by the children of Washington State University Vancouver's At Home At School program as they learned about food heritage, food justice and local food systems.

The mural will be unveiled Aug. 7 at Angst Gallery (Niche Wine Bar and Cafe), 1015 Main St., Vancouver, during the First Friday Art Walk.

Warren Neth of Slow Foods Southwest Washington is eager to find other homes for the mobile mural -- such as food pantries, farmers markets, other community gathering spots. Contact Neth at 360-771-1296 or visit http://www.slowfoodswwa.com/home

Enter Warren Neth and his Slow Foods Southwest Washington, a local nonprofit with a different thrust. Slow Foods is all about replacing industrialized food and food systems with top-quality local foods and food networks. Neth is on a mission to change the way we eat, he likes to say, and there’s no place better to start than with young people.

Neth connected years ago with At Home At School director Susan Finley, a professor of education at WSUV, and managed to rustle up a number of local restaurateurs and caterers who agreed to assemble locally sourced, healthful school lunches for a group who might be mostly used to prepackaged, mass-produced, low-value convenience foods.

But the kids knew quality when they tasted it, Finley said, and they ate up lessons about the benefits of local food and local networks too.

This year, Neth recruited four fellow foodies and their businesses to provide the At Home At School lunches in rotation for the four-days-per-week camp: the Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground, Niche Wine Bar and Cafe in downtown Vancouver, East Vancouver catering service Simply Thyme, and award-winning Chef Sebastian Carosi of Fuel Bistro & Wine. That’s a chic new “farm-to-fork” Ridgefield restaurant that’s sharply focused on ingredients that aren’t just organic and local but “indigenous and wild,” Carosi said.

Carosi, a fiery advocate of uncompromising food principles, said he spends a lot of his time foraging in the fields. But on Thursday morning, he and his staff bustled around their kitchen and dining area, filling 60 trays with hot, fresh lunches for children who probably rarely get anything so good.

“It just blows our minds. It’s all local and organic. It is so helpful to our program,” said Russell.

For one thing, she said, all that free food is saving At Home At School and Share, for that matter, some serious money. Across four weeks, Carosi said, he’s providing just about 250 total lunches for the kids at AHAS at a cost of about $2,500. He was quick to credit the owner of his business, Suzanne Pietz (daughter of the late legendary local businessman Ed Pietz) with authorizing the expense. “It’s her money I’m spending when I make these lunches for the kids,” Carosi said.

“As a parent, I know how expensive regular food is, let alone local and organic food,” Russell said.

What’s for lunch?

What used to be for lunch at At Home At School? A generic sandwich, some potato salad, a vegetable, and juice. Some of it would probably come wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, Russell said. What emerged from the Fuel Bistro kitchen on Thursday? Herb-roasted Draper Valley chicken; potatoes from Stebbin Farms of Troutdale, Ore.; and arugula, heirloom tomatoes and other veggies from Northwest Organics — a subscription farm that’s nearby in Ridgefield. None of it is packaged in anything except those thermal trays, which go back to the kitchen for re-use.

“I want to make sure these kids eat right,” Carosi said. “I want to teach them that you can eat good and it can taste good.”

Sandwiches and pasta have been on the lunch menu too, but they’re nothing like the previous fixin’s, Russell said. She said she regularly hears that the pasta is the best the kids have ever had. They want to take it home to their parents, she said. Sometimes they manage to.

“For some of these kids, it’s the only meal they have all day,” Russell said. “Why shouldn’t it be the best?”

Loading...