FRESHFARM FoodPrints Testimony to DC Council Education Oversight Hearing, March 9, 2021
FRESHFARM Director of Education & FoodPrints Program Director
Testimony for the DC Council Committee of the Whole
Education Performance Oversight Hearing
March 9, 2021
I am Jennifer Mampara, the Director of Education at FRESHFARM and co-founder and director of the FoodPrints program. I join you today to advocate for inclusion of programs like ours that can support outdoor education at multiple DC elementary schools in COVID recovery budgets and use of education stimulus funds. I am also here today to ask for assistance in establishing a system for recurring funding in the city budget to support food, garden and environmental education programs that have been shown to increase school satisfaction, consumption of vegetables and whole grains in the school meals program, and that provide joyful, academically-enriching educational experiences for students and their families.
Thanks to funding from the city, we have been able to grow FoodPrints to reach over 5,700 students at 15 elementary schools across the city over the past 10 years. At its best, FoodPrints brings joyful experiences that deepen connections to school communities and brings academic learning to life. With our interdisciplinary, hands-on learning model, all FoodPrints programming is grounded in our standards-based curriculum, which has been written and tested over 10 years in DCPS elementary schools and just released this winter.
In the past year while students were learning from home we’ve pivoted with virtual cooking classes, food access, and garden-based outdoor learning – and through all the challenges maintained connections with our partner schools, families and students. Now, as students begin to return to school buildings, and as principals are developing stimulus spending plans, we are receiving requests to partner with additional schools to provide academic recovery, social-emotional learning and healing from this difficult year of isolation. One principal said to me, “We want to work with FoodPrints because our students need connected experiences to help them heal.”
We know school leaders and staff are being asked to bear a tremendous responsibility for COVID recovery – and many are being asked to do this amidst cuts in their school budgets. After 12 years of working with DC public elementary schools, we are in a strong position to provide exactly the kind of support that students, families, teachers and school administrators need, and we are honored to have schools we don’t work with yet requesting our partnership in their COVID recovery plans. We will continue to plan and partner with DCPS, the Washington Teachers Union, and the State Board of Education to expand our partnership model of interactive, hands-on, real-world experiences – with a focus for now on outdoor learning in school gardens – to support both academic and social emotional learning.
However, we need time to plan in order to be prepared for expansion – particularly after contracting due to a reduction in our funding from DCPS for the 20-21 school year. Organizations like ours can only provide the most responsive programming when we know what we know the scope of the request and what the FY22 budget and stimulus spending will support. In addition, we hope that planning for the millions of education stimulus dollars in the District will include teachers, school leaders, and partner organizations like ours.
We believe that food education for young children and families is a critical tool in the city’s efforts to become a nationally recognized sustainable city and to combat, through positive support and messaging, the stark health disparities that exist within DC. (Almost 50% of DC’s population is either diagnosed with or at high risk for diabetes and diet-related diseases.) We welcome the opportunity to partner with the city on expanding our school-based food education model to support a healthier and more sustainable DC – and collaborate with the city on significant expansion of food education such that all of our elementary schools can become ‘food hubs’ – with food education, food access, school gardens, and sustainability action that empowers children and families to make sustainable food choices and improve long-term health.
Ultimately, we believe that food education and food access are keys to successful education COVID recovery this year and beyond. We thank Councilmembers for your leadership on education at this important time.