Anina Estrem is a Communities in Action AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the FoodCorps team in Forsyth and Lame Deer.
“What do you think this is?” Students reach for the pieces of vegetable I’m offering and examine it closely.
“Is it lettuce?”
“It smells like broccoli.”
“I don’t want to eat it.”
Several weeks ago I introduced Rosebud’s elementary students to kale, most of whom had never tried this strange green leaf before. Raw kale can be slightly bitter and tough, so I also brought ample amounts of baked kale chips which I assumed students would gobble down. Imagine my surprise when every one of the kindergarten through 6th grade classes tasted the kale chips, exclaimed over how they tasted like potato chips, and clamored for more raw kale. In my final lesson of the semester last week, we reviewed what we’ve learned this year (in song) and ate what else- more kale! One student informed me she got kale seeds in her Easter basket. A kindergartener was thrilled to announce he had kale for dinner the night before. A third-grader told me that she intends to plant kale in her garden plot.
During the last eight months, I have not always been convinced that I am making a difference. Change comes reluctantly, and results often aren’t easily discernible. I’ve had to accept on faith that the ideas I’m spreading and relationships I’m building have an impact, even when I can’t see it. My faith was rewarded by finding Rosebud’s elementary students transformed into kale-eating fiends!
This success gives me new confidence and enthusiasm to take on the final three months of service. Because over 50% of Rosebud students live out-of-district, developing a summer program isn’t feasible. Looking to stay busy with the end of the school year quickly approaching, I have transitioned to serving with the Boys & Girls Club in Lame Deer.
Lame Deer is a town of about 2,000 people located sixty miles south of Forsyth on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. My new host site, the Boys & Girls Club, offers a safe and fun hang-out spot and in the summer provides meals for hundreds of children. I’ve already learned that accessing fresh or local food is even harder here than in Forsyth, and diet-related disease is widespread. To change this, we are building a garden out of shipping pallets to help supply the Club’s kitchen and allow members to learn the origins of what they’re eating. We intend to partner with the Club’s mentoring program to get both kids and adults gardening, and to integrate nutrition education into other existing programs.
At the Echoes of the Earth Conference in Bozeman on Climate Change,
with representatives from the Club and tribal Elders.
Lame Deer is a new experience for me- I’m learning to live in a new community and a new culture where I face harsh local realities about accessing food and good health. But my experience in Rosebud taught me that even when it feels hopeless and like no one is listening, change actually is happening
Baked Kale Chips