Kitchens and gardens and schools ...

The Kitchen CommunityI can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to connect with The Kitchen Community at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show … at some point over the last year or so I was at a networking event at the DIRTT Showrooms, and they had a video playing in their kitchen demo area which featured these amazing modular raised-bed gardening planters … and I was terribly disappointed to find that they weren’t theirs, and my search for info on those sort of went cold at that point. It turns out that the video they were showing was about the “Learning Gardens” programs from The Kitchen Community, and they had these set up at Navy Pier show!

This is an extremely fascinating organization … created by Kimbal Musk (brother of and co-investor with Elon Musk of PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, etc.), it arose from his interest in the culinary arts. Beginning in Denver with “The Kitchen” restaurant they branched out to supporting local organizations that were doing school gardens, and eventually set up their own program. Operating primarily in the Denver, Los Angeles, and Chicago areas, they are now up to over 200 schools in their programs, with half being in the Chicago schools. Here’s a bit from their site

We believe that gathering around the table and sharing good food and drink is what connects us as family, friends and community. That’s why we’ve developed the Learning Garden, to connect kids to real food through outdoor learning and experiential play. Learning Gardens are 21st century learning environments that support a diverse array of lesson-plans and activities in Science, Engineering, Art and Math.

The Kitchen Community, … founded in 2011, impacts over 100,000 children a day with nearly 200 Learning Gardens in schools and community organizations across the country. These Learning Gardens serve schools as outdoor classrooms and experiential play-spaces that connect kids to real food and empower them to make healthier food choices. They are designed to be a place where students want to learn and teachers want to teach.

Frankly, we had a moment of confusion at Green Tech Chicago over the organization, as I attended an event at the Chicago “The Kitchen” restaurant (right on the river at the Clark St. bridge) a few weeks ago, and Ed only knew of the group via the education aspects (which are customers of our worms for their composting classes) … after a good deal of Googling we sorted out that the restaurants are a part of the over-all project, but they and the classes (and school gardens) are fairly separate operations.

We ended up speaking with Stephanie Kichler at their exhibit, and here’s what she had to say:

One thing that Ms. Kichler mentioned that I found both odd and sad is that they’re not selling the modular planters, but only have them available for school projects. While I’m biased, I thought these were the most exciting thing at the show, and it was great to be able to physically interact with the planters (the specs, etc. are available on their site) … but I hope they change their mind on that point!

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