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Schools, Smoothies, and Soil: SOOP Week 1

It’s been an exciting week here at SMSJ! Our SOOP interns have been busy working, learning, and making new connections, and our newest garden is about to get a lot bigger. Today I’m working with Shawn, a 16-year-old student at UPrep, and Josh, an 18-year-old Edison student, to bring you this week’s SOOP update.

On Tuesday, we had the honor of hosting Rochester city councilwoman Elaine Spaull, who took some time out of her busy day to speak to the interns about her career and everything she does for our community. After one of our interns asked her what she’s doing to improve RCSD schools, she empowered the interns to make their voices heard: “the people who are closest to the problem are closest to the solution,” she said. Councilwoman Spaull had a long conversation with the interns about how they could improve their respective schools, which Shawn and Josh appreciated. “She was nice and helpful,” Shawn says, “and she really listened to what we had to say.” Councilwoman Spaull is an asset to our community, and we’re incredibly thankful for her support of SMSJ, our gardens, and our interns.

On Wednesday, the interns got to participate in the first of a series of 6 workshops run by Foodlink nutrition educator Josh Wilcox. After a lesson about the MyPlate nutrition guidelines and what a balanced diet looks like, Josh Wilcox showed the interns how to make nutritionally supercharged smoothies. They used beets, blueberries, oranges, spinach, and even kale—which the interns harvested themselves just prior to Josh’s arrival!

Shawn, who wants to go to culinary school and own his own restaurant someday, thought Josh’s workshop was “awesome.” Shawn has doubts about the kale and spinach smoothie after seeing what color it was—“I was like ‘ugh!’” he says)—but he thought it was pretty good—and definitely better than raw kale. He’s looking forward to doing more cooking workshops—we bet he’ll give Josh Wilcox a run for his money in the kitchen! Josh enjoyed the smoothies too even though he doesn’t really like fruits and vegetables. He told me he wants to buy a blender to make healthy foods that actually taste good. We’re excited to keep working with Josh over the next 5 weeks, and we’re extremely grateful to Foodlink for their continuing support of SMSJ and the Rochester community.

Our interns have been hard at work preparing for a very exciting development: the installation of 11 more raised beds at SMSJ’s newest garden, located at 1199 Culver Road. The new beds will allow us to grow and share hundreds of pounds of additional produce over the course of the growing season, and the interns’ beautiful hand-painted beds will make the garden a wonderful place of community and healing for our Beechwood neighbors.

Shawn and Josh told me that they’ve really enjoyed being outside in the gardens this week. “I’m looking forward to doing this full-time,” Josh said when I asked him about his work in the gardens. Shawn is also excited to keep getting his hands dirty and helping the garden grow. “It’s good for the community to help out,” Shawn says, “and our hard work will pay off.”