Local Program, Big World

Local Program:

When you hear the term food system, what do you think of? How produce is grown? Food being packaged on an assembly line? Vegetables being transported to your local grocery store? Thanks to our garden manager Lyssa’s food systems class a few weeks back, I now consider myself a budding expert on (read: inexperienced but interested in) food system analysis. For instance, did you know that there is not one, but actually threemain food systems? At Brainfood, I feel we often represent the local food system. In this type of food system, food comes directly from farmers  o you - the consumer. It might come from a CSA or a local farmers market and probably only travels for a few hours from where it’s grown to your plate.

How is Brainfood part of our local food system?
First off, we love to use the herbs and veggies grown in our beautiful youth garden. Whether it’s incorporating garden kale into a cheesy artichoke dip or making a fresh pesto from our basil, we always try to find a way to utilize garden produce in our recipes. How do these things get from the garden to the kitchen? Well, they usually travel in my backpack, or occasionally a granny cart. Anyhow it only takes about eight minutes for me to walk from our garden to our Chinatown location. Local food? I think so.

In addition, we also have Brainfood Homegrown, led by Brainfood graduates turned artisan snack makers who imagine, create and sell food right here in the District. While we all have dreams of seeing Homegrown’s kalechips on supermarket shelves around the country, right now the team is focusing on sourcing their best products to local retail spaces, such as 3 Stars Brewery, DC Brau and our stand at Union Market#eatlocal and #shoplocal can really be a way of life!

Lastly, we’ve recently gotten local chefs involved in Brainfood programs. This past Tuesday and Wednesday, DC chef Matt Baker visited Kitchen All Stars in Columbia Heights to teach students how to utilize a local invasive species – blue catfish – in tasty dishes like fish tacos. You don’t get much more local than that!

Big World: 

While Brainfood is usually content to focus the majority of our work on our vibrant local food system, we’ve recently had some pretty cool opportunities to step outside of our comfort zone into the world outside DC! 

A couple weeks ago in Kitchen All Stars, we began our international unit. Students voted on cuisines they were interested in cooking, and so far we’ve “packed our bags” (and measuring spoons) and landed in Jamaica, Mexico, and Thailand. Next up? China and Italy! It’s been really fun to explore these different cuisines with students and learn about the cultural histories behind different dishes. While many of us have never actually travelled to these countries, food is often an awesome window to new worlds that truly knows no boundaries.

Maybe even more exciting than our international unit has been our Program Director Carina’s trip to the Philippines! This past fall, Brainfood was lucky enough to host Rexan Dayao - the director of KKFI, a social services non-profit in Manila - as a professional fellow with the State Department’s YSEALI program. iLead was Rex’s proposal to bring solar cookers to underserved areas of Manila. Through lots of hard work, the project received funding, and Carina is currently in the Philippines helping with its launch. Who knew that Brainfood aprons would be worn one day by youth all the way in Southeast Asia?


It just goes to show that whether you’re in DC or halfway across the world, there will always be exciting things to learn, and delicious things to eat!


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