Teaching Young Kids About Sustainability

Posted by on Mar 27, 2018 in food education, summer camp, sustainability | 0 comments

Campers on a field trip to the farmer's market to meet the local hard workers who supply our food.

Campers on a field trip to the farmers market to meet the local workers who supply our food.

How do you define sustainability? Some people think of it in political terms: encouraging farms and communities to take the long view in their methods of food production and transportation, ensuring we don’t decimate our soil and food supply, and preserving our environment for future generations. Some people think about sustainability in more personal terms: composting, shopping at a farmer’s market, or joining a community-supported agriculture program (CSA) to increase the sustainability of our food system.

 

When working with children in our camps and classes, we try to mention sustainability in the context of everything we cook, grow, and throw away. Because it’s such a global concept, however, we start small–by taking the word sustainability back to its roots, then working up to these big, abstract ideas over time. We also take special care to emphasize that even small kids can make a big impact when it comes to protecting our planet.

 

First, we note that this word, like many big words, is really two smaller words stuck together: sustain and ability. Since

Fellow camper taking a moment to check on our friendly composting worms.

A future farmer taking a moment to check on our friendly composting worms.

ability is more familiar as a word and concept to kids, we start there. What is an ability? It means something you can do, kids will say. We ask: What special abilities do you have, particularly when it comes to helping others? Some kids will share that they help take care of siblings, pets, or plants, for example, or perform household chores. (During our summer camp, we also talk about classroom jobs we might have, like taking care of our worms by feeding them or our plants by putting them in the sun.)

 

Then, we tackle the word sustain. Sustain means “to keep going.” What would happen if we stopped taking care of our pets or our plants? Would they be able to keep going without our help? All heads shake vigorously: no. While some things will happen with or without our help–the sun will rise, the planet will turn–when it comes to taking care of plants and animals that depend on us, we have to make conscious choices about how we keep certain things going.

 

By choosing to keep our plants and animals going in thoughtful ways as chefs and gardeners, we explain, we can make sure that we have healthy, nutritious food to sustain (or support) our families and communities in the future. We invite kids to brainstorm a list of choices they can make along these lines: re-using food waste in a new recipe, for example, or giving the food scraps to our class worms or to a local composting outfit, so that they go back into the soil rather than into a landfill.

 

Sustainability, once they understand it, is often an easy sell for children: they tend to love taking care of things, and are often astonished to find that this is an idea requiring championing. The harder part is explaining that sometimes, people don’t know or don’t choose to keep our planet going in a healthy way, and that the consequences of certain poor choices can affect all of us.

 

If we do delve into the negative side of the sustainability conversation, we do so carefully. The idea that the sunny weather they enjoy may be a harbinger of runaway climate change, that their beloved happy meal hamburgers are responsible for the release of dangerous methane gases and the unjust monopolization of vital water sources, and that the plastic refuse from their picnics might end up endangering the dolphins they idolize from afar–well, it’s a lot to lay on a child who’s still not old enough to see the latest Star Wars. Enlisting the children in our lives in the causes that drive us as an adult is an understandable impulse, but we believe the developmental needs of our learners are even more important than our politics. Young children are easily frightened, in ways we can’t always anticipate, and even adults can become disheartened when confronted with problems without being given solutions.

 

City kids learning about urban agriculture and rooftop farming at Gotham Greens.

City kids learning about urban agriculture and rooftop farming at Gotham Greens.

Educator David Sobel calls this dynamic “ecophobia”: the creation of a sense of disconnectedness and helplessness when facing the world’s abstract ecological problems. He criticizes many well-intentioned (but developmentally inappropriate) messages aimed at children that promote it. This includes lessons and conversations that plunge young children into modern food controversies (i.e. the issues surrounding factory farming), without first providing them with a basic understanding of the foundational concepts of food (i.e., where it comes from, how it’s grown or made, and how molecules and microorganisms play a role in the above).

 

Sobel argues that we need to help young children to connect to the Earth before we ask them to be responsible for it. This is something that takes time, particularly for children who do not already have experience with gardening or hands-on cooking. It follows that children, particularly those under ten, deserve a chance to first meaningfully cultivate a fear-free relationship with food and environment via hands-on exploration. Pushing a learner to contemplate worldwide issues of sustainability and fairness beforehand is, ironically, a rather unfair thing for an adult to do to a child who is not ready for that.

 

So, we go slow. We return to the roots of the word. We emphasize ability, and we create a space for kids to develop their own ideas about how to help. As mentioned above, we take special care to emphasize that even small kids can make a big impact–by embracing their individual and collective abilities to keep our planet going.

 

Below are some ways children can do their part to make our food system more sustainable:

At Brooklyn Botanical Garden,  campers witness how food scraps turn into gardening gold.

At Brooklyn Botanical Garden, campers witness how food scraps turn into gardening gold.

 

  • Handling food waste mindfully. Even young children can be taught to sort materials into composting, recycling and landfill categories (and talking about the differences can spark great discussions). They can also take responsibility for carrying the compost to a collection center and the recycling to a grocery store deposit machine.
  • Learning to grow a few plants at home, without pesticide, using organic soil or compost. Understanding how to grow and protect a plant using natural methods, which is no easy task, can be a memorable hands-on lesson that creates empathy and appreciation for the farmers who are choosing to do so at a large scale, protecting our bodies and planet even when it’s not the most profitable choice.
  • Learning to cook mostly meat-free meals or sides from scratch, and to make smart use of the leftovers. Explain that this enables the family to spend more money on the relatively more expensive fruits and vegetables produced by these more responsible farmers, because they are throwing less food away. Note that farmers’ markets use little to no packaging for their products, making it even safer for the plants and animals with whom we share our world.

Written by Ryan Cherecwich, M. Ed
Wellness Educator and Assistant Camp Director

 

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Following dumpling ingredients, from farm to frying pan, in sixth grade

Posted by on Feb 21, 2018 in agriculture, Chinese New Year, cooking classes, cooking with kids, dumplings, social studies | 0 comments

 

IMG_0913Laura Cameron’s sixth grade class at BUGS, a charter middle school in Windsor Terrace, was having a hard time accepting the fact that favorite foods like bread and pasta come from–gasp–plants.

If the food didn’t strictly look like a vegetable–and of course, processed foods like store-bought pasta do not–it was hard for them to imagine how that particular food had gone from farm to table.

IMG_0927Moreover, it was hard for these children to imagine how historical peoples from around Asia, which they were studying, had managed to figure out how to turn a wild grass like wheat into the domesticated and versatile product it is today, and how to turn the hardy brown grain into the finely-ground white flour we use in thousands of products.

So, they reached out to our team at Butter Beans for assistance. Our educators were happy to roll up our sleeves and come up with a hands-on lesson plan to help them make these connections. Our first and last thought: dumplings.

Dumplings, which we prepared with wheat-based wrappers and served alongside rice for contrast, are an incredibly IMG_0904fun and educational food to prepare with groups of children. A few things we like about doing dumplings with kids of all ages:

  • Dumplings are part of the worldwide family of “pocket foods,” including ravioli, pierogi, empanadas and many other dishes, so almost every kid can find some connection to this dish via their own home culture.
  • While dumpling wrappers can be handmade, they can also be purchased cheaply (about $2.50 for a packet of 50 at Whole Foods), making it an activity unlikely to break the school budget, especially if each kid makes a single dumpling.
  • When preparing dumpling filling, there are many different ingredients and techniques involved, ensuring thatIMG_0943 every kid stays busy and gets to contribute. While we teach all of our students the same knife skills that adults might learn in a cooking class (with kid-safe knives, of course), some students might also find that they’re more comfortable working a grater or even using scissors to break down herbs.
  • All of our recipes are vegetarian–the best fit for our health-aligned mission, as well as NYC’s diverse population–and this one provides an especially appealing vehicle for vegetables that are simply minced and tucked inside. That said, they also allow kids (and parents) to see that they can easily add flavor to veggie-based dishes without using animal protein, i.e. by adding garlic and ginger and by creating a punchy, salty sauce using just soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

 

When cooking in the classroom, family involvement makes all the difference

Speaking of cultural connections: Not only did this lesson kick off a Chinese New Year celebration, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note how important it was to have parent involvement in this activity, which involved constructing over a hundred dumplings with four groups of students in a sink-less school classroom. Parent volunteers made this flurry of tasks possible by staffing the pan-frying station, clearing dishes and providing pep talks. (Full disclosure: Belinda DiGiambattista, founder of Butter Beans, was one such parent.) 

 

Being able to invite parents into the classroom space is a rare opportunity for us educators. We want them to see theIMG_0922 hard work that their kids are doing and to feel a part of the community. We also know that as partners in caregiving, educators have an important role to play in helping parents to expose their kids to foods they might not try at home. For example, parents don’t have the benefit of peer pressure, which can often convince picky toddlers or teens that being courageous in the kitchen is cool. After seeing their children open up and try new foods in class, many parents said that they were excited to try this recipe at home with their children, and some even left with to-go kits of leftover filling and wrappers to try it again that very night. When it comes to convincing New York kids to try new plant-based foods, it truly does take a village!

By, Ryan Cherecwich, M.Ed, Butter Beans Wellness Educator

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Sip-ly Sweet!

Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 in Valentine's Day, pink lemonade, cranberries, recipes | 0 comments

 

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In our cafeterias today, our food service teams spread the Valentine’s Day love with a homemade pink lemonade…Butter Beans style!   But first, how does lemonade even become pink?  Do pink lemons exist?

If we trace back the roots of pink lemonade history, there are claims that this beverage was invented at two different circuses:  In 1857, when a concession stand ran out of water, its salesman, Pete Conklin, found a vat of pink water that apparently one of the show’s stars used to wash her pink tights in.  He used this water and sold it as, “fine strawberry lemonade.”  Another claim was in 1912, when  circus promoter, Henry Alliott, accidentally dropped his red cinnamon candies in the vat of lemonade he was making.  Although, both their sales sky-rocketed, it is doubtful that it tasted very refreshing!

Today, pink lemonade  is commonly made with raspberries, crushed strawberries or often colored with red dye. It turns out, pink lemons actually do exist and  they are called “Eureka lemons.”  They have a unique pink flesh and variegated with green stripes on its rind.  download-2

At Butter Beans, we strive to make our refreshments natural, seasonal and healthy.  Instead of using artificial ingredients and because it is still winter, we used seasonal cranberries to create the pink hue.  Try out our Homemade Sweet Pink Lemonade recipe at home for a “Sip-ly Sweet” and refreshing treat!

  • 2 cups agave nectar or honey
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • Splash of *cranberry  juice to make it pink in color
  • Stir until agave or honey is dissolved
  • Top pitcher with water
  • chill

*Look for a cranberry juice that is 100% cranberry juice – no high fructose corn syrup or sugar added

At Butter Beans, “We go together like “cranberries and lemonade!”

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It’s Our 8th Annual Butter Beans Food & Garden Summer Camp! Catch the Early Bird!

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Valentine's Day, pink lemonade, cranberries, recipes | 0 comments

Registration is Now Open!

Early Bird Camp Special Ends Thursday, March 15th

Sign up for our Food & Garden Summer Camp before the early bird flies away!

 

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Urban farms, kitchens and gardens serve as classroom and playground to city-slickin’ kids eager to play, dig, cook, explore, and grow in New York City at Butter Beans Food & Garden Summer Camp!

 

Our team curates a summer experience filled with exciting, innovative, and fun field trips and workshops giving your child/ren a truly unique summer adventure and parents who register by Thursday, March 15th receive 10% off camp tuition.

 

Butter Beans camp runs in two week sessions from July 2 – August 10th for campers ages 6 – 10 years old. We are excited to announce that we will be returning to Corlears School in the West Village and International School of Brooklyn in Carroll Gardens!  Throughout our camp sessions, we’ll adventure through the NYC foodshed to meet artisan chefs and food producers, cook nourishing, seasonal lunches from scratch as well as play frisbee in the park, harvest fresh produce, feed chickens and worms and write our own cookbooks!

 

Other adventures can also include:

 

Read about all the fun we had at camp last summer!

We can’t wait to see you in the kitchen and garden this summer. To register, click here or email us at camp@butterbeanskitchen.com with any questions.

 

With Food and Flavor,

The Butter Beans Camp Crew

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Thanksgiving Quinoa and Cranberry “The Bouncing Fruit” Chutney

Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 in Valentine's Day, pink lemonade, cranberries, recipes | 0 comments

growingcranberries_lingonberries_1000The cranberry is one of three fruits native to North America that is commercially grown (along with blueberry and concord grape). It is a wetland fruit that grows on vines in bogs and is a perennial plant,  meaning growers do not need to replant each year. A healthy cranberry plant that is taken care of can grow for a very long time. Some cranberry vines in Cape Cod are over 150 years old! How do we know they are ready for harvest?  Because they bounce on the ground when ripe! Hence the name, “the bouncing fruit.”

As long as 450 years ago, Native Americans used cranberries for dye, food, and medicine. With cranberries  harvested in mid-September to early-November, it has long made its appearance  as a staple on Thanksgiving dinner tables.  We often see cranberries as a sauce, relish, jam, dried (craisins) and as a juice or spritzer.  

Cranberries are a very good source of Vitamin C, which supports our immune system to keep us healthy during cold and flu season. But it is the whole range of phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) in the cranberry that make them so healthy. All of the antioxidants and vitamins together give the cranberry its anti-inflammatory effects (reduces swelling), cardiovascular support (healthy heart and lungs) and more.

Get your family’s health winter-ready with a quick and easy recipe you can enjoy cooking together.

cranberry-quinoa-kale-salad-1-113013QUINOA STUFFING

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 pears
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1 bunch kale
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ c fresh cranberries
  • ½ c pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 2 T honey (opt.)
  • salt and pepper to taste

cranberry-chutney-cooked1CRANBERRY CHUTNEY

  • 1 c fresh cranberries
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • 2 oranges juiced (1 cup)
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ginger
  • 2 T honey (opt.)

Directions

  1. Chop apples and juice the oranges. Add to saucepan with cranberries, cinnamon, ginger and honey.
  2. Heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat in separate pan.
  3. Cut cranberries in quarters. Dice onions. Add both to pan and cook 5-7 min until caramelized.
  4. Cook quinoa. Place in bowl after cooked.
  5. Cut pears into ½ inch pieces. Repeat with celery.
  6. Tear and massage small pieces of kale.
  7. Add kale, pears, celery, and red onion and cranberry mixtue into quinoa bowl.
  8. Measure out vinegar, olive oil, honey.
  9. Whisk together or shake in container. Dress the stuffing.
  10. Remove chutney from heat.
  11. Serve, give thanks and enjoy!

 

 

 

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