By Slow Food USA Intern Reece Trevor
For nearly three years, kids in Bennington, Vermont, have been getting a kind of education that doesn’t—sadly—appear in most school curricula. The Blooming Chefs program, sponsored by Bennington College’s Quantum Leap educational lab, takes an ambitious approach towards reconnecting young people with their education, their food, and their planet. Blooming Chefs takes an active role in the Bennington Student Community Garden, a local teaching garden where kids can get their hands dirty and learn where the food on their plates came from. Its leaders have started classroom gardens at a number of nearby elementary schools, making sure that teachers can easily incorporate food education into their daily lesson plans.
Blooming Chefs is certainly part of the sweeping trend of community gardens, but its work doesn’t stop there. Director Carol Adinolfi writes that her organization aims to promote “active, responsible citizenship” from every possible angle. Practically speaking, that means that Blooming Chefs also addresses how food plays into literature, history, culture, and art. Like most Slow Food in Schools projects around the country, Blooming Chefs relies heavily on volunteer support, and the Bennington community certainly hasn’t disappointed. Local businesses have offered financial aid, parents weed and harvest alongside their children, and Bennington College students help out as volunteer interns.
With support from Slow Food USA’s Garden-to-Table micro-grant program, Blooming Chefs recently published a cookbook drawn from its students’ experiences. The cookbook is impressive on its own, but even more so because it’s the result of a community working together. Blooming Chefs’ biggest strength is that it gets a remarkable cross-section of the Bennington community united to teach kids about good, clean, and fair food. Adinolfi herself puts it best: “this is a powerful inter-linking of organizations working towards common goals.”