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Food Justice Capital City Public Charter School Class of 2019

"food justice work is important because everyone can be impacted by getting the knowledge they need about their food. By understanding where it comes from, and how it's treated, everyone can make better and healthier decisions."—11th grader zion k.

Food. Everyone has a connection to food. These often emotional experiences are typically paired with different social and economic opportunities. Who has access to healthy and affordable food options? Who is aware of and implementing sustainable practices? What does food justice look like in the District of Columbia? Capital City Public Charter School 11th graders explored these critical questions through a long-term in-depth expedition on food justice. After studying the complex ways food systems impact the community and the environment, the Class of 2019 hosted the 4th annual DC Food Justice Youth Summit. On April 12, 2018, 11th graders brought together DC youth, teachers, food justice advocates and activists to build a citywide movement for sustainable and equitable food systems.

Capital City is a public charter school serving nearly 1,000 students in grades PreK–12 from every ward in the District. Through a focus on the whole child, the school engages students in their own learning, community, and world, using a project-based approach. As an EL Education Credentialed Mentor School, students study compelling topics through authentic hands-on learning experiences that result in high quality and meaningful products.

For the past four years, Capital City 11th graders have explored food justice culminating in the DC Food Justice Youth Summit, a full-day conference, in which DC youth lead interactive workshops for their peers, community members, and other food justice activists. Student-led workshops present research, ideas, and recommendations on various issues related to food justice to create a more just society.

partners in food justice

The Class of 2019 hosted the 4th annual DC Food Justice Youth Summit in partnership with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES). The Summit was originally planned for March 22 at UDC. Due to unexpected weather (snow in March!), it was postponed to April 12 and relocated to Capital City.

journey to the summit

The food justice expedition kicked off on January 31, 2018. Following opening remarks from various speakers, students met with experts and explored potential research topics for their expedition. Based on interest area, students worked in small groups to analyze an issue related to food justice and present actionable solutions to benefit the community. The kick off was the first step in each student's journey to becoming a food justice expert and advocate.

MASTERY OF SKILLS AND CONTENT

11th graders spent four months analyzing food sourcing, accessibility, policy, nutrition, history and more to gain a deep understanding of various issues related to food justice. This interdisciplinary project spanned four subjects to ensure 11th graders also mastered the following skills.

In English II, Students learned to:

  • read a text closely to make observations and inferences.
  • effectively engage in discussions with diverse partners about controversial topics, texts, and issues.
  • produce clear and coherent writing that is appropriate for the specific task and audience.
  • revise and edit a piece of writing so that it more effectively achieves its purpose for a particular audience.
  • integrate evidence from research into writing selectively and smoothly.
  • present claims and findings in a focused, coherent and engaging manner.
  • analyze the purpose and effects of an author’s rhetorical or literary techniques.

in Environmental Science, students learned to:

  • evaluate the environmental impact of omnivorous, vegetarian and vegan diets.
  • evaluate the environmental impact of conventional and organic products.
  • evaluate the environmental impact of processing foods.
  • evaluate the environmental impact of local, seasonal eating.
  • evaluate the environmental impact of genetically modified organisms.
  • evaluate the sustainability of food choices.

in Algebra II, students learned to:

  • create regression models for data using technology.
  • create polished scatter plots to convey information.
  • analyze and interpret data and regression equations in a real world context.

in US History, students learned to:

  • conduct high quality research for their food justice project.
  • identify and explain multiple perspectives in their food justice project.
  • create an accurate and detailed bibliography for their food justice project.

character

Each class was taught in the context of the real-world. This type of relevant and compelling curriculum ensures students also develop the social and emotional skills needed to grow into productive, engaged citizens. Students became empowered to use their skills and voices to advocate for change. Fieldwork is one way this was achieved. Seeing issues firsthand helped to inspire our students to propose real solutions to community problems. Each student group participated in a full day of fieldwork on February 28th.

Capital City Kitchen research groups visited Elise Witlow Stokes Public Charter School, DC Bilingual Public Charter School, and The SEED School of Washington to learn best practices in public school kitchens. These visits opened our students' eyes to sustainable practices to significantly reduce food waste and ensure more students have access to healthy food.

Composting research group visited Cardozo Education Campus (DC). They learned how public schools can use composting to reduce waste while also contributing nutrients back to the earth.

DC Greens Case Study research group 1 visited Friendship Tech Prep Academy to learn from another school's food system and collect data on how students feel about the food they are served. This data became part of the student-designed plan to inform food service providers and as a result, give more public school students access to nutritious and delicious food options.

"this helped with our research about how a wellness policy, food vendor choices, and the lunchroom environment impact public/public charter school students. it gave insight into how students in the district feel about their food options and can help food vendors provide both great-tasting and healthy food."—11th grader Bethel H.

DC Greens Case Study research group 2 visited E.L. Haynes Public Charter School to learn more about how they handle school lunch and how students feel about their food. There, they were introduced to the Head of School who spoke about school lunch vendors, taste and requirements. The research group also surveyed E.L. Haynes students to gather data.

"this research is important because it can make a huge difference to help schools become better."—11TH GRADER Esmeralda g.

Loaves and Fishes research group visited Thrive DC to learn more about homelessness in the District. They walked away stunned by the limited opportunities our most hungry populations have to get healthy and affordable food.

"My fieldwork helped with my research because rather than just reading articles after articles about different organizations and the homeless people in DC, I am actually able to talk to the people and really get their perspectives."—11th gradeR Vivian N.

Rocklands Farm research group visited Yes! Organic Market Petworth, Petworth Safeway, and Columbia Heights Giant to explore where our food comes from and accessibility.

Based on this extensive research inside and outside of Capital City, 11th graders designed interactive workshops to teach community members and other DC youth about their topics and solutions to improve current food systems. After months of hard work researching, analyzing and preparing their presentations, 11th graders hosted the 4th annual Food Justice Youth Summit.

the summit

"Our food justice work is important because it helps to bring awareness to the type of food we eat and how our food system works."—11TH GRADER Mia s.

On Thursday, April 12th, Capital City’s Class of 2019, in partnership with the University of the District of Columbia, hosted the 4th annual DC Food Justice Youth Summit. 11th graders presented their findings and solutions on various issues related to food justice. They were joined by other DC youth including students from Capitol Hill Day School, who also presented, and Dunbar High School.

The day started with an opening ceremony presented by student speakers, Cindy Z. and Kiara A. Keynote speaker, Cam Pascual, co-founder of Food Recovery Network and founder of Eatable, shared her personal story to emphasize the importance of reducing food waste and fighting for food justice.

Following the opening, students led interactive sessions for their peers and community members. Youth-led workshops focused on school kitchens, food waste, regenerative farming, homelessness and composting.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

As the culmination to this in-depth expedition, high-quality work was apparent in each student-led workshop.

DC Greens Overview research groups explored how DC charter school students’ demographics and building locations impact the meal offerings, wellness policies, vendor choices and lunchroom environments at their schools. They examined and analyzed menu items on school lunches, length of lunch period, snack offerings, percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, student satisfaction with food and wrote an executive summary called “State of DC Charter School Meals.”

"MY GOAL IS TO BE ABLE TO EDUCATE ADULTS AND OTHER STUDENTS ABOUT HOW THE PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL'S WELLNESS POLICY, FOOD VENDOR CHOICES, AND LUNCHROOM ENVIRONMENT IMPACT STUDENTS IN THIS GENERATION."—11TH GRADER BETHEL H.

DC Greens Charter School Case Study research groups explored how school wellness policies, vendor choices and lunchroom environments impact students in charter schools in DC. They surveyed students and conducted an in-depth case study at SEED High School, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, Washington Latin, and Friendship Collegiate-High School campus. They presented their high-quality case study at the Summit.

"MY FOOD JUSTICE WORK IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE FOR ONE, DC HAS A VERY HIGH NUMBER OF HOMELESS PEOPLE DUE TO THE CONSTANT INCREASE OF THE LIVING COSTS HERE. AS A RESULT, IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHETHER OR NOT THESE PEOPLE ARE GETTING WHAT THEY NEED IN ORDER TO SURVIVE. FOOD IS A NECESSITY, AND WITHOUT IT, PEOPLE WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO LIVE FOR LONG. THUS, FOR THESE PEOPLE TO HAVE TO WALK An HOUR OR MORE JUST SO THEY COULD GET A MEAL FOR THEMSELVES IS A PROBLEM BECAUSE THESE ARE PEOPLE, TOO, THAT BELONG TO OUR COMMUNITY."—11TH GRADER VIVIAN N.

Loaves and Fishes research groups conducted site visits with Loaves and Fishes and interviewed clients to determine travel time to the Loaves and Fishes location, travel cost, number of other places offering affordable food, availability of food on weekends and public holidays. Students presented their findings and suggestions for how Loaves and Fishes should improve its services to homeless populations based on the travel needs and nutrition sources.

Rockland Farms research groups explored the significance of regenerative pasture management for people within DC. Students published their results to share with farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers in the DC area.

Capital City Compost research groups studied how Capital City can affordably and sustainably dispose its compostable food waste. They developed a proposal for Capital City school leadership outlining three sustainable and affordable options for disposal of Capital City’s food waste.

Capital City Kitchen: Present and Possible research groups checked the current status of the Capital City kitchen space. They presented best practices from other DC public school kitchens that could be implemented at Capital City.

Capital City Kitchen: Food Waste research groups compared two different serving methods, pre-packaged vs. family style, and analyzed how it affects the amount of food waste at Capital City.

Capital City Kitchen: Funding research groups evaluated the cost for Capital City to remodel its kitchen and researched funding sources the school can apply for to help pay for the build out. With the Present and Possible and Food Waste teams, students developed a proposal to Capital City school leadership outlining the costs, benefits and urgency for renovating the cafeteria kitchen.

The day ended with a closing ceremony featuring a representative from the OSSE Summer Food Service Program who encouraged students to keep seeking change and food justice.

impact

"All of us together are looking out for future generations."—11th grader Tori

Following the Food Justice Youth Summit, 11th graders shared their ideas with community members and school leaders to push for real change. Students presented actionable plans to reduce waste and improve food quality to Capital City's Chief Operating Officer and Head of School. 11th graders also shared their data with DC Greens and Loaves and Fishes, to improve their practices providing DC public school students and our homeless communities access to healthy foods.

Amplifying their movement, The Washington Post Metro section featured Capital City 11th graders and the food justice expedition. Reflecting on the student-led workshops, columnist Courtland Milloy remarked, "The students were doing what the adults should do, providing healthy alternatives and looking for ways to get food to those who need it the most." Read the article here.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs also documented the food justice expedition. Watch the story below.

Capital City students are advocating for a better tomorrow and developing concrete solutions to make it happen.

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