Twelve high school students stood in a makeshift kitchen at a one-acre farm in Edmonston, preparing a dish they might have eaten hundreds of times before — pizza. But this time it was going to taste a little different — fresher, they said.
On a recent day, students in the Seed to Feed program prepared the Italian dish at Eco City Farms, an urban farm and food education nonprofit organization. They used organic ingredients, some of which were taken from a two-acre plot.
“I’ve never seen a pizza start from scratch before. I’ve seen it on television, but actually doing it — I’ve never seen it like that,” said Diego Datiz-Citron, a rising sophomore at Bladensburg High School.
Seed to Feed is a six-week summer program that teaches students about sustainability and healthy eating through assignments, such as cooking projects, poetry workshops and field trips.
“The whole idea is that young people will learn everything, not only about cooking and growing food,” said Margaret Morgan-Hubbard, founder of Eco City Farms.
Eco City Farms has received $350,000 from Kaiser Permanente to help maintain the farm and support programs such as Seed to Feed, according to Shana Selender, a representative of Kaiser Permanente. Eco City Farms launched in 2009 and has been running Seed to Feed since 2010.
“It’s all part of helping them be more articulate and outspoken in things they’re committed to and passionate about,” said Morgan-Hubbard, a Hyattsville resident.
Camp members meet daily, splitting their time between the Edmonston farm and a recently opened 31 / 2-acre plot in Bladensburg, next to the Autumn Woods Apartments on 57th Avenue.
Students attend the camp for free; some receive hourly wages or community service credit for their contributions to the farms.
Most students come from the Port Towns Youth Council, a community-based student government group. Two are residents of Autumn Woods Apartments.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Autumn Woods Apartments as a “food desert” — an area where basic, affordable food is difficult to access without a vehicle.
Viviana Lindo, Eco City Farms’ director of community education, said the students will need time to adjust. Several were unfamiliar with ingredients such as sage and oregano before joining the program.
“We have to understand that we’re working with a community that’s been so disconnected to nature, to food in general,” Lindo said.
According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonprofit research and public policy institution in the District, 69 percent of Prince George’s County residents are overweight or obese and 48 percent of children are overweight or obese.
“A lot of it has to do with the fact that there isn’t healthy food access or healthy food traditions out here,” Morgan-Hubbard said.
After participating in the program, Morgan-Hubbard said, the students will grow accustomed to healthy eating.
“By the end of the summer, they begin to love the food.”