By Lisa Paredes
In the year since the creation of an edible, school garden at Roosevelt Elementary, lots of sweat and work by adult volunteers and students alike have produced several harvests and many opportunities for students to learn about growing food. Most recently, a large batch of tomatoes were picked and shared with newly-opened local bakery and sweet shop, Quenelle. Organized and managed by Roosevelt mother Kristen Jennings, the Roosevelt Family Garden has been a catalyst for bringing members of all ages in the Burbank community together. Prinicipal Dr. Jennifer Meglemre’s enthusiasm for the project and continual support has helped the Garden gain momentum.
The garden relies upon community donations, the Roosevelt PTA, the school Hula Club and individual parents for supplies and funding and volunteer muscle for the gardening. California Pizza Kitchen was one of the first local businesses to donate start up funds, and with added resources for compost and lumber, a group of parent and child volunteers cleared space at Roosevelt last fall, installed a watering system, hauled materials and built beds along Avon Street behind the school.
Once the garden was set up in October 2012, the Family Garden had enough funding to support lunch clubs for hundreds of students on a biweekly basis. During their lunchtimes, students created seed balls, learned about bugs and composting systems, made flower pots with recycled materials and heard from guest speakers. Classrooms also visited the garden with their teachers for lessons.
Roosevelt’s Student Council held a poster contest with students in grades 1-5 and the artwork will be displayed this coming school year on a quilt-style banner in the garden. There are a few other signs throughout the garden to thank local sponsors who donated important items, such as an irrigation system from The Sprinkler Guy and a large storage shed from Community Chevrolet.
Over the summer, volunteers weeded and watered the sunflowers and tomatoes. The tomatoes produced a bumper crop, which left garden volunteers thinking about ideas for using the food grown at the school.
Mrs. Jennings explains how Quenelle caught her eye, “I saw that not only was the chef offering ice cream, sorbets and sweet treats, but also savory offerings like bacon cheddar scones. I thought Quenelle’s unique menu and the crops from the Roosevelt Garden would be a perfect partnership, as well as a way to draw attention to healthier treats available to kids and their families in the community. After proposing that idea to John Park, the restaurant’s owner and chef, he immediately suggested some additional menu items and side dishes we could create.”
“My husband suggested we make our own healthy popsicles from an overflow of garden crops. I thought about Quenelle’s menu — why not go for hibiscus watermelon, orange greek yogurt or jack fruit pineapple treats instead of frozen yogurt or ice cream from the abundance of chain restaurants in the area?” continues Ms. Jennings.
“And even better, how great it would be for the Roosevelt kids to grow the ingredients in their garden and see healthy choices all come together? My husband took the day off from work and we harvested two large bags of tomatoes grown in the school garden and delivered them to Quenelle – 25lbs in all! We left many on the vines for the kids to pick during a future lunch club with their teachers when the weather was not in the triple digits and school was in full swing.”
Burbank’s California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) has also expressed interest in using the student-grown herbs in their pizzas. CPK’s manager visited the Roosevelt Family Garden in the previous school year, with pizzas and coupons for the kids, and read stories related to healthy eating and composting. CPK also donated earthworms and a worm bin to help the plants thrive with important nutrients from worm castings.
Roosevelt Family Garden will hold a garden reboot meeting on Saturday, September 28, at the school. Dr. Meglemre will join the garden volunteers and they will talk with parents, teachers and students about what they’d like to plant for the new growing season and build a “Green Team” to keep ideas fresh for the edible schoolyard. Last year, the garden harvested and enjoyed radishes, carrots, tomatoes, lima beans, lettuces, herbs and flowers.
“We will create the space for each grade to visit and learn the benefits a garden brings to our environment, community and school,” Ms. Jennings anticipates. “Our team will share skills – we don’t all have green thumbs (yet!) – transplant older plants into pots and get the soil ready. Lunchtime activities will revolve around holiday themes, our Fall Festival, Earth Day, and much more.”
Quenelle, at 2214 W. Magnolia, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. While sweets and bakery items are always available, Chef Park has made limited quantities of the fresh tomato pesto butter.
Sun shades and a new hose have been purchased already for the upcoming year at the edible school garden. The Roosevelt Family Garden hopes to add a picnic table with umbrella, rakes, trowels, watering cans, gloves, pots, plants, seeds and more instructional materials.