Increased fruit and vegetables along with reducing waste and teaching about quality food is high on the agenda for the Dr Ion Ratiu Nursery pre-school in the city of Turda, Romania. Situated in the mountainous region of Turda, in central north of the country, the school is embarking on this mission by growing their own fruit and vegetables, using the garden as an educational tool to foster a sense of appreciation for food that is good, clean and fair.
Over 40 children from four to seven years old from the pre-school directly benefit from the project. Another eight schools comprising of over 200 students, 20 teachers and 30 volunteers also benefit from being a part of the developing Slow Food in the Canteen project.
Dirt on the Hands
Improving daily food habits of their students has one major challenge for those involved in the project: the school has no canteen on the school grounds and elementary school children go home before lunch time. Yet at least one meal or snack must be provided daily by kindergartens in Romania who use either their own kitchens or an outside catering service for this meal. Taking a creative approach in their European canteen project, the community of schools and Slow Food Turda are utilizing school gardens as an effective way for children of all ages to learn about good food.
The school, along with Slow Food Turda, has already started their project hitting the ground running. Since April 2009 the convivium has been working with children at the school on the project “Viata in Gradina Verde” (Life in the Green Garden) to establish ‘green corners', small gardens in the school’s grounds where children can plant, tend to, harvest and enjoy fruit and vegetables that they have grown. “Many people discouraged the project saying that it was a dreamy idea but now one year after, we still believe in this dream. But this is why you have dreams – to make them a reality” says Marta Pozsonyi, Slow Food Turda Convivium Leader. A few months after it started, the project was awarded a grant from a Swiss philanthropic foundation and was then replicated in another school. Today there are nine schools in total in the Turda area that have either a small green corner or a larger school garden for educational activities.
As part of the project in May 2010 students and teachers had the opportunity to visit and learn from a similar but more established school garden project in the town of Fossano, Italy. The school garden in Fossano was created as part of a nationwide Slow Food Italy project “Orto in Condotta” which started in 2003 and has since helped many schools to develop gardens and taste education activities across the country, achieving great results.
In addition to the garden, the school is also using cooking lessons and taste education workshops to educate children about good and flavorsome food. The aim is not only to address the food that is being eaten daily at school but also for the students to develop an enthusiastic interest in food. Through a recycling project where they have been composting waste from the kitchen and leftover food from the tables as well as recycling containers and glass, the students are also developing an understanding of the environment and the role that it plays in the production and consumption of food.