9/14/2011 11:33:00 AM Portland - Franciscan Montessori Earth School
Franciscan Montessori School photo
Marc Boucher-Colbert with Zachary Davis, Zachary Maskell, Dominic Young, Ashley Young, Mahkenzie Young and Daniel McKinney.
In August, Human Solutions, Inc., and the Franciscan Montessori Earth School hosted a garden dinner for participants in a summer gardening program. Human Solutions is a non-profit that works to help struggling families become self-sufficient and stabilize in their housing. Franciscan Montessori Earth School is a private school in outer Southeast Portland that works to provide quality Montessori education to children pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
For eight weeks this summer, Marc Boucher-Colbert, the FMES garden specialist, hosted a group of children ages 8 to 14 who live at a low-income housing complex up the street from the school. The program was organized by Americorps community organizer Ren Rossini, who works in the housing complex in conjunction with Human Solutions.
Each week the group, which included children and adults from the housing complex, sampled vegetables in the garden and assisted with tasks such as planting, transplanting and watering. They harvested potatoes, peas and carrots and had the opportunity to taste these items fresh out of the garden. Each week they were able to take home produce to share with their families. For many of the children, it was their first experience helping grow food and tasting fresh produce.
“Our situation is that our school is blessed with extensive grounds in an area where there are very few parks," Boucher-Colbert said. "We open our grounds all year to the neighborhood as an act of goodwill, but this year we wanted to go deeper and invite local kids to share some of the gardening and the healthy food that our own students receive.”
To celebrate the experience, families of all participants were invited to share a meal created from garden produce. Volunteer chef Christian Anayas created a menu using produce that the participants helped cultivate, including the young gardens in food preparation. Among other tasty items, participants helped create grain and squash-stuffed kale bundles, purple-skinned potato salad, and shortcake with rhubarb sauce and whipped cream.
“Before this experience, I would never have guessed some of these kids would taste a fresh vegetable without its being slathered with ranch dressing," said Laura Lirette, resident services coordinator for Human Solutions. "Now they’re eating lettuce raw from our little garden at the apartment complex and demanding more. That’s amazing."