The Healthy Local Food program at Armijo High in Fairfield brings together 30 students each week to learn about healthy, seasonal, local food in both the school garden and culinary sessions. The program is offered through two SuSol programs — Solano Gardens and Local Food Cooking Education — in partnership with Innovative Health Solutions, Armijo High School and the school’s multimedia and garden clubs. Students will share what they have learned through final multimedia projects. Here, two students in the program reflect on their early experiences. Follow their progress on Instagram @healthylocalfoods

Matthew Madrigal (second from left) and Kenya Jackson (right) participate in the recent stir-fry cooking class. They offer their reflections on the program below.

Connecting in the Armijo Garden

By Kenya Jackson

When we first walked into the garden we were met with SuSol instructor Lauren Gucik holding a huge bag of stuff. She had asked us to gather in a circle wherever we liked. We immediately moved to a more circle-ish form but not too far from each other as we were all very nervous. We, as a group of kids, were very quiet because we were nervous. Thankfully, Lauren was very considerate of this and while encouraging us to talk, she didn’t mind talking to keep conversation going by herself.

Lauren went into quite a bit of detail about her past and told us all about her journey into becoming so in touch with nature. She asked for our input and acknowledged all of our nonverbal answers. We soon became very comfortable around each other as well as her. Once Lauren took notice she asked us to introduce ourselves and establish this as a safe space where we could take a break if we are ever in need of one.

While in the circle we were given seeds to break open and toy with, they were ours. Most of us peeled off the seeds and discovered they were beans! Luca’s beans had started to grow while inside the pod which we then passed around as we found it quite interesting and cool. Lauren had taken notice of Mariah raking her hands through the beans and took the time to teach us about sensory stimulation. She pulled dried cobbed corn out of her bag and gave one to each group that was established the week prior.

As we pulled the kernels off of the cob, we fell into steady conversation of our ancestry and where we are from. We talked about all we had in common culturally. Lauren’s ancestors are from Northern Europe, meaning she can’t burn sage since it’s Native American, so she burned rosemary, another protective plant.

Cooking in the Kitchen

By Matthew Madrigal

For our sixth week we made a stir-fry! But before we did that we discussed smells of foods that remind us of dishes that are important to us. We then went over the ingredients. Then we got to the actual cooking. Every time I cook in the program I just get reminded how fun it is. My team and I did pretty well. I and some others were even interviewed for a bit! When we finished, everyone’s dish was fantastic. It was a great day. I’m glad I get to be here.

Solano Gardens is funded by Solano Public Health. Funding for culinary instruction was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM22SCBPCA1133. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.