Leaf mold? Yes please!

At the last Chesnut Clean & Beautiful Day, the Chesnut Changers worked on making leaf mold, which is a project that can easily be done at home with basic materials.

What is leaf mold?  It is the by-product of partially decomposed leaves.  It makes a great soil amendment, because it is light, spongy and high in nutrients.  It also has lots of air pockets, which promotes worms, which is good for your garden!  Leaf mold is the reason that the soil in the forest is so dark and soft, rather than the hard clay found in our backyards.

AT-HOME ACTION – Make your own leaf mold:

1.  Rake up some leaves.  If you have a leaf shredder, go ahead and shred them as this will speed up the decomposition process.

2.  Fill up a contractor bag (those heavy black plastic bags) with the leaves.

3.  Water the leaves until they are quite moist.

4. Seal the bag with a knot.

5. Poke about 10 – 20 holes in the bag.

6. Put your bag someplace out of the way (but where it will get rained upon).

7. Wait about a year.

Once the leaves have decomposed you will be left with a black spongy substance that is great to add to your garden beds — similar to peat moss but free!

But what is it? SWEET POTATOES!

They may not have realized it, but yesterday in the cafeteria Chesnut Changers became grassroots marketers!  They were encouraging their classmates to take and taste the local food of the month: baked sweet potatoes. They did this by talking it up in the lunch line, and awarding hand stamps to anyone who tasted their sweet potato at the lunch table. They were also responsible for turning in numbers for our marketing report, counting up how many children bought lunch, and of these, how many tasted sweet potato. Special thanks go out to Lauryn Sparks, Sofia Renals, Andie Bellus, Jack Bellus, Kira Holmes, Sam Grant, Harrison Thomas, Shay Martin, Emma Davis, Addison Eckard, Madison Hummel and Juliette Mijangos for running the program at their tables.

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This is one of the Chesnut Changers’ regular activities: promoting Dekalb County’s new Farm to School (F2S) program, which features one Georgia grown vegetable or fruit in the cafeteria each month. At our after-school meetings, the Changers have learned why locally grown foods are better for the environment and highly nutritious. Last month we reviewed the success of our marketing efforts by examining data from Granny Smith Apple Day that reported how many children who bought lunch chose the local food, and of these, how many tasted it. The kids had fun looking up their own class and the class with the highest and lowest percentage of apple eaters.

The kids decided we could improve our efforts to let Chesnut students know about the local food of the month. We talked about the power of consistent messaging (the kids helped demonstrate this by sharing well-known product slogans), and agreed to create a morning announcement we could reuse every month, as well as a slogan to communicate why the F2S food is special. Thanks to Emily Katz, Emma Davis, Aaron Frank, Madison Hummel, Andie Bellus, Juliette Mijangos, Addison Eckard, Megan McCloskey, Madison Jones, the students and staff heard this advertisement over the morning announcements leading up to Sweet Potato Day:

“It’s healthy for you; it’s a good treat too.
It grows in Georgia.
It doesn’t come from far away,
So they’re really good to eat today.
But, what IS it?
SWEET POTATOES!!”(obviously this last part is the kids’ favorite)

The Chesnut Changers decided to concentrate our poster ads to the cafeteria lunch line the week of the local food, and created the slogan: “Eat me, eat me! I’m very sweet! Eat me, eat me! I’m the best treat to eat!” We hope that these posters reappearing each month will signal the kids to look for the F2S lunch item.

So how did we do? A direct comparison cannot be made between Apple Day and Sweet Potato Day marketing results because the sweet potatoes weren’t ready to be served until after the Pre-K, Kindergarten and 2nd Grade classes had already come through the lunch line. Unfortunately our Chesnut Changers in these grades didn’t get to participate in our “man-at-the-lunch-table” marketing. Next time! Once we have marketed the F2S program and measured its effects over several months, we hope that progress will be evident in the number of kids trying the Georgia grown food.

As Our Garden Grows, Where Does It Go?

Our fall harvest is coming in, and Chesnut Changers Garden Leader Carissa Malone has already put her plan for it into action. Yields from the garden are distributed via these three avenues, fulfilling Chesnut Changers’ mission to be stewards of school, community and selves:

  1. Chesnut students – scheduled harvest/tasting times to learn where their food comes from and to develop taste for new healthy foods
  2. Chesnut teachers/administration – samples from the garden donated periodically to thank them and encourage them to utilize the garden as a teaching tool
  3. Malachi’s Storehouse food pantry — donations to help serve low-income families in our community

While the Kindergarteners were first to sample radishes from the garden, over the past two weeks, Ms. Ramo’s third graders, Ms. Beecher’s, Ms. Cartwright’s and Ms. Merritt’s second graders, and Ms. Landis’ and Ms. Austin’s first graders also came out for scheduled lettuce and radish tastings.

Chesnut’s garden also donated 1.7 pounds of radishes to Malachi’s Storehouse — a food pantry right up the street from Chesnut based out of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church — which provides emergency groceries to low-income families in our community.

This week Chesnut’s staff found a garden surprise in the teachers’ lounge, with a sampling of the fall harvest prepared by Ms. Malone, including salad greens, pickled radishes and kale chips. Ms. Malone also brought a batch of kale chips for snack at Clean & Beautiful yesterday. They were delicious!

AT-HOME ACTION: Make your own kale chips!

Here’s Ms. Malone’s recipe for kale chips: Wash and cut the leaves away from the stems. Rub the leaves with a little olive oil, honey and salt, and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, turning once, until crisp. Fast and nutritious!