By: Ricardo Diaz
One year ago, the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) showcased an edible garden as part of their educational center. The Edible Academy is a state-of-the-art educational facility featuring hands-on activities and innovative programs that help children, families, teachers, and the general public learn about growing and preparing vegetables, fruit, and herbs while encouraging a lifelong interest in gardening, nutrition awareness, and environmental stewardship. The NYBG sits in an area of high food insecurity, which makes the Edible Academy’s work even more crucial. The initiatives cover topics such as how to plant and grow herbs, how to compost, and how to harvest vegetables. Two WITS schools, AmPark Neighborhood School and Samara Community School, often take trips to the NYBC.
WITS was invited to take part in two events at the Edible Academy this year, thanks to our relationship within the Bronx community. Before the Edible Academy was established, WITS Program Manager Marion Williams established a partnership with Bronx Green-Up, an arm of the NYBC. Thus, WITS was invited to be a part of the Edible Academy’s opening weekend. The WITS team provided cooking demonstrations as part of their “Honey & Harvest” opening weekend.
WITS was then invited to be a part of the Summer Solstice Celebration this past June, to celebrate the Edible Academy’s one year anniversary. The team provided demonstrations using the vegetables and herbs that were growing in the garden itself. This was a true example of our national work – WITS utilized a recipe (spring pea pesto) initially created by one of our Chef Partner Aria Kagan in Florida, which was then modified for use in the Washington D.C. CookCamp. Because the Edible Academy was growing spinach, the team used fresh spinach along with the spring peas, and created paninis and pesto pasta salads. All the WITS schools in the neighborhood were invited, and every participant received a tasting and recipe card, along with a thorough explanation of how to make the meals.
As a WITS Chef with schools in the Bronx (who also happens to be from the Bronx), it has been a pleasure and privilege to join Chef Marion in collaborating with not only a local organization with established roots in the community, but also with a very accommodating partner. WITS is looking forward to going back for the next demonstration, and building upon our relationships within this special community.