FoodPrints Testimony at March 2, 2022, DC Council Education Oversight Hearing
Jennifer Mampara, FRESHFARM
Testimony for the DC Council Committee on the Whole
Education Agencies Performance Oversight Hearing
March 2, 2022
Good Morning. Thank you Chairman Mendelson for the opportunity to participate in this hearing. And, thank you to DCPS and to all the City Council members who have been so supportive of experiential food education for DCPS students. My name is Jenn Mampara, and I am the Director of Education at FRESHFARM, a DC-based non-profit that operates producer-only farmers markets, food access programs, now including Produce Plus, and FoodPrints.
FoodPrints embeds hands-on food education in DC public elementary schools, and over the past 14 years has demonstrated a significant return on investment for the city in the areas of health, whole child education, academic enrichment and environmental literacy.
Thanks to city investment in FoodPrints this year, children at 19 DC public schools in preschool through 5th grade have additional staff at their school who are exclusively focused on providing engaging, hands-on experiences that support environmental science, food and nutrition education and social-emotional learning and healing. Our team of 31 teachers engage over 7,000 students every month in FoodPrints programming. We built three new school gardens this fall and will conduct at least 2,100 FoodPrints sessions for DCPS students this school year. Funding provided by the city allows us to embed our staff at these partner schools, ensuring that these school gardens are well-maintained all year and that students are directly involved in planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. Our staff also ensures that all the produce that is grown is put to use – either in COVID-safe cooking classes at school, or in virtual sessions conducted from home with garden and farmers market produce. And, that everything we do is directly tied to DCPS curriculum.
But, we think that the most important thing to consider is what impact is this having on students. What are students experiencing because of funding the city has provided for FoodPrints?
- Discovering that they love vegetables. Students at many of our schools recently made their own salads from shredded apples, beets and carrots and gobbled it down. One student at Tyler Elementary in Ward 6 told his principal, “I could eat this ABC salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner!”
- Engaging in real-world, meaningful work. A student at Marie Reed recently stopped his FoodPrints teacher in the hallway to say, “Thank you for coming to let us cut vegetables!” When they were using hand mills to grind wheat berries into whole wheat flour to cook with, students were amazed that they could make flour just like what you buy in the store.
- Experiencing joy and pride in their accomplishments. At Garfield Elementary in Ward 8, students excitedly pulled their principal in to show him the recipes they were writing to create and describe themselves. This is the same principal who was moved to tears when he saw students at his school joyfully harvesting the first produce from their new garden this summer.
- Making validating, affirming connections to their own lives. A student at Simon Elementary in Ward 8 was studying seeds we eat during FoodPrints and excitedly said that the seed art she was making reminded her of the art her Jamaican family makes.
- Expanding their dreams for the future. A 2nd grade student at Whittier Elementary in Ward 4 told her FoodPrints teacher that her dream is to be a FoodPrints teacher when she grows up.
- Successfully working together with purpose. At Langley Elementary in Ward 5 students were so excited reading seed catalogs together to plan their spring planting and measuring every garden bed to determine how many plants they could fit – collectively experiencing joy from knowing that their work really does matter.
- Building an understanding of and appreciation for the natural world. At Truesdell Elementary in Ward 4, preschool students visited the winter garden and discovered that rosemary was the only plant growing in the freezing temperatures. They decided to work together to build up soil around the base of the plant to help keep it warm. Positive experiences with the natural world lead to a desire to protect the world.
We encourage the city to recognize the value of funding partners for outdoor education at all schools that engage many different partner organizations. We believe that funding from the city is exactly what makes these programs equitable across DC.
EmpowerEd has proposed an outdoor education fund that requests a continued investment in FoodPrints for 20 schools next year, AND a grant program or funds provided directly to schools that could support other partner orgs in providing equitable access to outdoor education.
This funding could also be connected to the school meals programs and implementation of the DC Healthy Schools Act – and school leaders could choose to begin using it when it feels like a good fit for their school community. Providing $100K to each elementary school every year for outdoor education would be a transformative investment that would go a long way towards providing equitable access and making the nation’s capital a leader in whole child education.
Thank you, Councilmembers, for your support of FoodPrints, food education, and outdoor education at this critical time for our young people.