Farm To Dining Hall Table
Muse Science Magazine for Kids|February 2020
At this island school, students have a hands-on approach to eating local.
By Susan Hunnicutt

Don’t be too hard on that droopy slice of tomato on your sandwich. It’s had a long trip. And, if your carrot sticks have lost their crunch, give ’em a break. They’ve likely traveled around 1,500 miles (2,400 km) to your lunch plate. The lettuce in your dinner salad may have had an even longer journey . . . more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km)! Our food tends to be less tasty and less healthy when it travels long distances. What’s more, the vehicles that move it contribute to a warming climate. But a group of high school students in the Bahamas can show us a delicious way to reduce food miles.

A Different Kind of Classroom

No internet, no cell phones, no grades. At the Cape Eleuthera Island School on the small Bahamian island of Eleuthera, environmental sustainability is a way of life. High school sophomores and juniors from around the world spend a semester learning without classroom walls. The campus, the ocean, and local towns are the schoolyard. The study program asks how to live well in a place. Sustainability is part of the daily lesson plan. And going green starts with breakfast.

Students, teachers, and visiting researchers share meals in the open-air dining hall. At the Island School, food travels just steps from the gardens to the plates. Eggs at breakfast are still warm from the hen house, the daily salad bar overflows with just-picked leafy green lettuce and every bite into a ripe, juicy mango is reason to smile. Pork chops and pulled pork sandwiches are served in the days following the pig harvest, and grilled tilapia raised in the aquaponic garden is a favorite.

Ellie, who spent the spring of 2017 at the Island School, loved the meals. “It’s such a community event with everyone squeezing in next to each other on the long picnic tables.”

Learning is all about hands-on experiences. Digging in the dirt, doing fieldwork on the farm, and eating fresh food, students learn to live a healthy, eco-friendly life. All the fruits, veggies, fish, and pork that are grown, picked, or plucked on campus stay on campus.

“We composted all our food, throwing out as little as possible. It was cool to know that our food scraps would later feed the pigs or be fertilizer for the garden,” says Katherine, a 2017 student.

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