Ovies Underground

Ovie Learns His Lunch Lesson

by Ovie  on December 11, 2006

Featuring Chef Ann Cooper, Renegade Lunch Lady

So I'm squirming around, right? And the soil's getting super saturated, so much that me and my buds start to seek higher ground. Next thing I know I'm on this playground, next to the garden I squirmed out'a, and I squirm into Chef Ann Cooper! Turns out Ann is a lunch lady where I live. Which is pretty loose talk, since I live underground, and when you're underground, well, you're pretty much all over the place. What I'm sayin' is, this place here, where I live, it's the underground, and the underground is everywhere. Sorta like space. But not really. Anywho…

Ovie: G'morning, Chef Ann! What're you doing out on the playground this morning? Shouldn't you be in the school kitchen cooking?

Chef Ann: I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen, Ovie, but I can't cook any meals without the food. I'm on my way to the Edible Schoolyard where Berkeley school kids grow some of the food I cook for them.

O: The Edible Schoolyard? Y'mean that garden I just squirmed out'a? Yes in-DEED! That's an incredible edible schoolyard you've got…the soil is impeccable! I mean…man!...totally organic, dude. The vegetables must be delicious.

CA: They are.

O: But the kids don't actually eat fresh vegetables, do they? I thought kids ate canned fruit cocktail, French fries, and chicken fingers at school.

CA: There's no such thing as a chicken finger, Ovie. And yes, some kids do have to eat canned fruit cocktail at school, but not here. The kids here eat fresh food…food they've helped to grow in our Edible Schoolyard…and they love it. Like you said, the vegetables are delicious, and everybody loves delicious food.

O: No doubt! Delicious food is down right delicious. But you can't possibly feed the whole school right out of this garden, can you?

CA: Not really, but with the help and support of an amazing team of chefs, we developed the R.O.S.S. program at the Ross School in New York. R is for regional, O is for organic, S is for seasonal, and the second S is for sustainable. If we stick to those guidelines when we buy our food, the kids in Berkeley get great food, too.

O: Okay, I see. But what about the seasonal bit? Don't kids want to eat strawberries all the time? What about lettuce?

CA: Well, when in you're here in California, you can have everything all the time—everything grows here all year long. It's true that vegetables don't grow during the cold winters up North, but that's okay. In New York, in the wintertime, we relied on local green houses for kale, choy, and chard and ate a lot of root vegetables that store well all winter, like celery root, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.

O: Kids like that stuff?

CA: They LOVE it. Seasonal, healthy food is delicious.

O: So how come all schools don't feed kids delicious food like you do?

CA: That's fairly complex for a worm to understand, but it starts with resources and values. Essentially, we need to show that we value the health of our children by feeding them the best food we can and by teaching them to develop healthy eating habits.

O: If that means more delicious soil in more Edible Schoolyards throughout the Underground you can count me in! How can I help out?

CA: I think with your super hero status you could encourage the kids to speak up. If you're at school and you don't like what you're being fed, say so. Write a letter to the principal. Circulate a petition. Young people have as much right as anyone to exercise a little civil disobedience! Kids have tremendous power—when kids speak up, big people listen.

O: Squirm-o-RAMA! Now that's a pep-talk, Ann! Thanks for your time.

CA: You're welcome. Oh, yeah…one more thing….you could also help by getting back Underground to nourish our soil.

Join Chef Ann's Lunch Lesson Revolution or read all about it in her book LUNCH LESSONS: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.

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