Edible Learning Lab – A Year In Growth
Edible Learning Lab – A Year In Growt
Nick Spanos, firstname.lastname@example.org
On most afternoons, a magenta glow can be seen reflecting out from the eastside stairwell of the Bomber Mountain Civic Center. If you follow the light down the stairs and through the side door, you’ll find yourself in what was once the middle school’s music room, but in place of scattered music stands and an upright piano collecting dust, you’ll find a room budding with life, literally.
The converted space houses a fully functional edible learning lab complete with raised planting beds, a fully equipped teaching kitchen and a vertical hydroponic system with red and blue LED grow lights to stimulate plant growth – the source of the magenta glow.
The Edible Learning Lab program is the brainchild of admitted foodies and entrepreneurs Tim Miner and Dave Creech.
They launched the program in Buffalo last September, and in the lab’s first year of operation it has prospered, producing well over 100 pounds of food and educating hundreds of Johnson County students in the process.
“Our mission is to bring edible education to all kids K through 12, and it’s something we think about all the time,” Miner said.
Edible education means giving students hands on experience growing their own food, but it also means teaching them the biological processes that bring food from a seed to a family’s table.
Educating the kids and introducing students to healthy eating practices is something that Miner sees as invaluable.
“We think it’s important because this is one of the solutions or one of the processes that can lead to health changes,” he said.
Miner also mentioned the staggering number of health problems caused by dietary related issues in the U.S.
“We feel that educating kids at an early age is going to set them on the right trajectory. It’s going to give them understanding and love for the relationship they have with food,” Miner said. “It’s going to create a more sound foundation for that relationship, and over time kids are going to be making healthier choices and they’ll be exposed to things they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, and we feel that’s our way to plant the seed for change going forward.”
The strong vision that Miner has for the learning lab wasn’t always set in stone. He’ll be the first to tell you it’s been an evolving journey from day one to now.
“I would love to tell you that we had this crystal clear idea of what an edible learning lab would be, what it would look like and how it would be organized, but the reality is this has been kind of a snaking back and forth approach. When we first started working on the rough outline of the curriculum we had intended it to be for adults,” Miner said. “I was on the board of the BDTA at the time, and I was serving with Lisa (Mueller) who was the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, and we were talking about the curriculum and I was telling her how surprised I was by the number of kids who couldn’t pick broccoli out of a line up of vegetables, and she said, ‘You’re working on the course, do you think you could apply that to kids?’”
Miner responded with an immediate yes, and when Mueller came back a week later and said she might be able to secure grant money for the project, Miner was fully on board.
Miner and Mueller worked together to prepare the grant application just before the deadline and were approved for the maximum award of $125,000 a year for five years, and after Miner and Creech reworked the curriculum and ordered the equipment for the lab, everything began to fall into place.
A year later, Miner is just putting the finishing touches on the project.
“We’re placing our last orders for equipment, we’ve fully equipped the kitchen and are working on the rain harvesting system, which will allow us to capture over 200 gallons of rainwater from the downspouts to be used in the lab,” Miner said.
The concept of the edible learning lab has always been something that Miner and Creech wanted to be applicable and repeatable on a national scale.
“The plan has always been to open as many of these labs around the ounty as possible. Right now we’re talking to about 100 schools. We’re really interested in having this information being presented to all schools around the country,” Miner said.