Carina Gervacio's blog

My Spirit Vegetable

Madelyn Bullock
is a Brainfood graduate who completed the Kitchen All Stars program in 2013, Box Project in 2014, and worked on our Brainfood Homegrown production team for summer 2015. Madelyn is a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School and she wrote the following personal statement as a reflection on what she's learned about herself in the kitchen and garden.

Food is my life. If  I were a vegetable I would be an eggplant. A vibrant purple with an absorbent flavor. There are so many possibilities for me, but not everyone knows how to use an eggplant. The power an eggplant holds is broad and unclear. My flavor fits in everywhere, but first let me make you a snack. 

Take a Peek Into a Week at Box Project!

Blog post by Brainfood Program Associate, Amanda Kirsch

Summer is always a busy season in our Brainfood kitchens. So busy, that sometimes we forget to share all of the fun with you, our amazing friends and supporters. But that ends here. 

Since the end of June, Box Project participants have been hard at work running a 6-week CSA out of our Mt. Vernon Square site. Each week our teens prepare a number of handmade food items to pair with an ever-changing variety of fresh produce from local farms. Box Project subscribers pick up their box of themed goodies each Thursday.

Hours of brainstorming, planning, recipe testing, shopping, and food prep lovingly go into each and every box. Take a peek at some of the action here, and feast your eyes on some cheerful faces and tasty fare.

Monday: With no time to waste, teams start the week with food prep. Our giant whiteboard/master checklist keeps us on track throughout the week.

A Peek at Our Summer Harvest

Blog post by Elizabeth Packer, Box Project Intern

Summer is in full swing here at Brainfood. At Box Project, we're busy putting the finishing touches on our third box of the summer and preparing for our 15 clients to come pick them up. This week's box theme is Hungry Hungry Hippie, which means lots of veggie goodness. And the best part about cooking in the summer? The abundance of delicious produce the season brings. 

I'm spending my summer at Brainfood both working in the garden and assisting with Box Project, and it's nice to see our youth incorporating vegetables from our garden into the food they prepare for our clients and themselves. Throughout the week, our young chefs have had the chance to visit the garden and harvest a range of ingredients, from herbs like basil and parsley to veggies like eggplant and dragon tongue beans. The walk from our kitchen to the garden takes about 2 minutes—it doesn't get more local than this! 

Take a look at some of the beauties we currently have growing in the garden, and stay tuned as the season progresses to see what else we're harvesting. 

What do Usher, Mike Tyson, and Brainfood’s beet cupcakes have in common?


I’ll give you a hint: they also share this common theme with Bill Clinton and Ellen Degeneres.


Maximizing Garden Harvests: Pest Management Tips and Commonly Overlooked Delectables


The garden boasts exciting new harvests after months of spring greens, kale and carrots. Strawberries are ripening, raspberries are reddening, and snap peas are practically popping off the vines even as their plants continue to climb the trellis towards the sun. 

But beware, we gardeners are not the only ones excited about the flourishing abundance! Constant vigilance is the surest way to ensure those pesky pests don’t eat all our hard work. Consider including the following tasks in your garden routine if you don’t already have a defense strategy employed:

Signs of Spring from the Brainfood Youth Garden


Our kale’s first visit to the garden! After spending their entire 23 days of life indoors under grow lights, they need some time to adjust to the variability of living outside in the garden. They spent their first hour outside swaying in the breeze and soaking up their first rays of real sunshine. Thank you to our Kitchen All-Stars for starting our first spring plants!



The garlic that has been cozily nestled in a bed blanketed by straw and row cover finally stretches towards the springtime sun. Look forward to some garlic scape pesto!


How to Find Sunshine in the Winter

First, picture this: a D.C. high school at 9:00 AM.  It’s 30 degrees and windy walking through the parking lot, and the ramps and stairs that lead to main entrance are crusted in snow, thanks to the late February freeze.   But despite the weather and the early morning, despite the fact that it’s a Saturday, the folks streaming into the atrium at Wilson Senior High School look more like a group that’s heading to a sunny recess break than a group braving the cold to get to Saturday school.

And that’s because, in a lot of ways, the experience that awaits inside has more similarities to a sunny recess break than an interminable winter class day.

Service, Justice, and Brown Fried Rice: Community MVPs Deliver Workshop #1

We hear them all the time: “So…Brainfood does food access for teenagers, right?” or “If you’re a public health organization, shouldn’t you be tracking your students’ weight loss?” or “I knew a drop in center that basically offered Brainfood programs for kids.”  

Misconceptions abound about youth development, food education models, and what it means to let youth build their own programs at Brainfood.  Some days, we laugh it off with a co-worker and swap stories about our individual messaging campaigns that haven't hit home yet with some of our closest family members and friends.

But some days, feeling like people don’t see the totality of our work can feel heavier.  Some days, the voice of doubt keeps nagging you, making you wonder if what happens in our kitchen is really social justice work at all.  Does making vegan pumpkin muffins as a group build a more just society?  Is letting students vote on what recipes to make really justice practice?  And how does it all stack up against those images in our head of social justice being about rallies and marches, big signs and bigger crowds?

Finding Our Way In the Midst of Mistakes

     Adding salt instead of sugar.   Mincing an onion that was supposed to be sliced.  Grabbing the baking powder when the recipe calls for baking soda.  After a few months teaching at Brainfood, instructors have seen all manner of kitchen mistakes.  While there are many ways to navigate kitchen errors, I thought I’d share two approaches that instructors can use to garner immediate results.

First Days, Again

One of the kickers of being a teacher is that, unlike your students, you often have several first days of class.  I’ve had quite a few “first days” at Brainfood, each with its own charms and pitfalls.  In my rookie year at Brainfood, I bit my lip with nerves and obsessively counted the mixing bowls.  My second year, teaching solo for the first time, I forgot to eat lunch and nearly got drowned out by my own rumbling stomach while explaining our attendance policy.  Third through fifth years got better.  I moved up from a smaller, older kitchen to a larger, brighter one for a few years and watched new students marvel at the expanse of stainless steel countertops when they walked in the door.  Then I taught in an empty Sunday school classroom (i.e., not a kitchen at all), and spent the first day showing my students how to set up portable burners and stack the pint-sized chairs in the corner of the room to give us more space.  And this year, just this Monday, I started first day of Brainfood classes in a completely different way: outside.

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