Legacy #1: Donor Advised Funds Help Kitchen Garden Corps Project Bear Significant Fruit at Clarke Middle School in Athens

IMG_0332_300Earlier this spring, UGA’s Wick Prichard brought a proposal for a middle school kitchen garden project to AACF’s Delene Porter for consideration. Prichard, an AmeriCorps VISTA out of UGA’s Office of Service-Learning, hoped to secure partial funding for a five-week summer program designed for Clarke Middle students to work in the school garden and kitchen where they would learn valuable lessons in such areas as horticulture, family and consumer science, sustainable agricultural practices, teamwork, and entrepreneurship. “I knew immediately that Wick’s project would appeal to two of our Donor Advised Funds,” said Porter. And almost as quickly as it took to Porter to ask, the two funds were on board. “The Seventh Son Fund and the Barbara and Frank Rice Memorial Fund jumped in and split the food costs and transportation costs for participants,” she added. According to Prichard, the donations from both groups totaled $2,100 and enabled the purchase of pantry items (butter, cream, oil, meat, and cheese) necessary for students to do the cooking (to go along with the fresh fruits and vegetables they grew and harvested in the garden) for a distinctive feature of the program: a student-run restaurant.

Over the course of five weeks from June to July, nine students volunteered in the garden and kitchen from 8:00 am to noon, Monday through Thursday. They not only worked the soil but also prepped and practiced creating “farm-to-table” menus with the ultimate goal of serving guests from Athens-Clarke County. As an added bonus, chefs from the community such as James Beard award-winner Hugh Acheson and his 5 & 10 executive chef Jason Zygmont helped students construct their menus and prepare their lunches. Under Zygmont’s tutelage, students served a lunch of zucchini salad with kale chips, roasted chicken on a bed of roasted cabbage, cornbread, and buttermilk pie served with toasted almonds and blackberries. The eighteen patrons in attendance at the donation-only luncheon contributed more than enough funds for Prichard to purchase groceries for the next meal, and in true “Top Chef” spirit, guest chefs took the time to say a few words about each student, acknowledging their hard work and dedication.

Prichard calls the Kitchen Garden Corps project an “unmitigated success” that resulted in “chef-quality food” in the “true spirit of community collaboration.” He continued, “Our hope is that 8th graders will get to the point where they can mentor in the summer program next year, and that all participants will know what it’s like to chef, cook, prep, garden, and understand what it takes to be an entrepreneur or business owner.”

IMG_0183_300 Tad MacMillan, principal at Clarke Middle, sees the project as having not only local and community importance but also significance of a global reach : “The Kitchen Garden Corps project has had a dramatically positive impact on our school,” said MacMillan. “Not only was it a great example of an effective school-community partnership (with area chefs and local donors), but it was also a great example of the power of the UGA-CCSD relationship. As a result of this work, we are having more focused talks about sustainability and how we teach our children about the importance of this concept. It is much more than our students just learning how to prepare food that they have grown in the garden–this project is about teaching our students about how we, as citizens, as consumers, and creative individuals, make choices that impact our community and our global community.” Echoing a similar sentiment, Prichard expressed his satisfaction at how effectively the garden project met the goal of the VISTA (volunteers in service to America). “Self-efficacy training is central to our mission,” he said. “The fact that we were able to teach student volunteers the value of fighting poverty by equipping them with the tools to do so was very gratifying.”

Reflecting on the success of the program, Porter stated, “Creating a vibrant community requires all of us to bring our time, talent, and treasure to the table. Every day there are incredible programs making a real impact in our community. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to plug in, considering making a grant, or seeking support for your project, AACF would love to hear from you.

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