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Harborside Academy Juniors Provide Food for All

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    April Hattori

A simple exchange of business cards in 2010 led to inception of the Food Justice for All expedition at Harborside Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin that now benefits the community and many schools in the city.

When Harborside environmental science teacher Mary Bohning gave her card to an executive at Xten Industries, she learned that the plastics molding manufacturer had five acres of land “doing nothing” across the street from the Kenosha Airport.

After Bohning shared her wish for land to farm, Xten generously offered her and her students use of the land for free. Though the land had poor soil for farming, the students solved the problem by planting crops in 13 “raised” beds – 4x12 wood boxes filled with rich topsoil that enabled the plants to thrive.  In 2011, Harborside received a grant to expand the Xten gardening program to four more schools. With 43 beds under active management, the garden yields 1.5 tons of fruits and vegetables a year that feeds families in the Kenosha community, including students at Harborside and other schools.

Through the Food Justice for All expedition, Harborside juniors learn how the ecosystem provides the community with the food, how each part of the food system in the community is shaped by laws, and how socio-economic status often influences access to fresh and healthy food.  They apply their academic acumen to the real world by running a booth offering free fruits and vegetables at the local green market, helping manage gardens at other schools, and designing nutrition curricula for local elementary schools in high-poverty neighborhoods.  They also mentor students at 15 additional elementary schools participating in the project. Many of the schools select plants that are ingredients for such recipes as salsa and pizza.

Students in the Food Justice for All expedition remark that the program has changed their viewpoints on food and their own learning.

“Before junior year I didn’t feel directly connected. With this expedition, I feel directly connected to my learning. Everyone has the right to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Lindsey Kuhagen said.

“For me, personally, it has changed the way I eat and what I think about farmers. I’m more thoughtful about what I choose to eat. Now, with the program here at school it’s easier for people to have access to fresh, healthy and locally grown food,” Mary Huff said.

Bohning credits the first exchange of business cards as the spark for this food revolution. She’s proud that a chance meeting with a Kenosha company led to the growth of Harborside’s Food Justice for All program that empowers her students to feed thousands in their community. Her groundbreaking work did not go unnoticed. In 2013, she was named Kenosha Unified School District’s first ever Innovative Educator of the Year.

If you have a Food Justice for All program at your school, please share it with us and the community by replying in the comment box below. You can read about another Food Justice for All program at Capital City Public Charter School in  Washington, DC here.