It’s the 20th anniversary of Arnerich Massena’s I AM Learning Partnership, and the program is celebrating in a unique way true to its mission. The full year from October 2014 to October 2015 will be dedicated to a service learning project with the Oregon Food Bank: FOOD FIGHT.
The FOOD FIGHT project will help kids learn about food insecurity and what can be done to reduce the impacts of food insecurity in our community. As part of the project, students will learn how to cook and will raise money for the Oregon Food Bank.
The FOOD FIGHT theme was chosen for a number of reasons, one of which is that food is a deeply meaningful aspect of the lives of the Arnerich family. Additionally, the issue of food insecurity arises during lunchtime at I AM Learning Partnership summer camps, as Kate DeGraw notes: “It is evident to see who has money for food and the ability to put together a reasonable lunch versus those who show up without lunch or with Doritos and a soda. Often, a child will say that they are not hungry or they forgot their lunch, but it is clear that they are hungry and would like to eat. Each summer, we end up supplying food for many of our hungry students.” Through conversations with children and parents, the issue of food insecurity becomes even more evident. “We’ve learned that many families are shopping at Dollar Tree to stretch their food stamps, but the food choices there are highly processed with large amounts of sodium.” The stories are heartbreaking: “One student began coming to school with less and less food in his lunch. He told us that his mom needs him to eat less because she can’t afford to buy more food.” After conducting cooking classes for two summer camp years, it became clear that many children do not have even a basic understanding of cooking and nutrition.
So how will FOOD FIGHT help all of this? All year, participating students will be learning hands-on cooking skills in classes organized by the I AM Learning Partnership, some of which will be taught by Portland area chefs. Kids will learn about nutrition, cost value, and, of course, cooking. Additionally, students will participate in fundraising activities to help collect donations for the Oregon Food Bank. Activities will include: food drives, an after-school “movie night,” after-school events, craft projects, and field trips to the Oregon Food Bank and local farms. The culminating event will be a “Healthy Food Court” in the Irvington gym on Saturday, October 17, 2015. Portland chefs will work with students to create dishes to provide as samples. Tony and Christine will present the Oregon Food Bank with a check for the funds raised.