I’m sure the parents of the 3rd and 4th graders from two D.C. area public charter schools would be amazed by their children’s enjoyment of asparagus  and cherry tomatoes, sautéed spinach, and fresh mint tea. Being that I only started enjoying asparagus last year, I was definitely impressed, but that just goes to show the power of fresh picked vegetables straight from the garden.
Last week and the week before, I had the pleasure of giving a cooking demo to students in the Washington Youth Garden’s  Garden Science program. Located in the beautiful National Arboretum , the Washington Youth Garden provides environmental science and food education programs for D.C. youth and their families. These programs include teaching gardening and how food gets from farm to plate, how to start a school garden , how to be good stewards of the environment, and how to prepare fresh nutritious food.
All of the kids were very eager and happy to help me cut up asparagus, tomatoes, lemons and herbs. Some of them helped harvest the vegetables and herbs from the garden, while others helped to gather the scraps for the compost pile. In addition to the beauty of the garden and superior taste of freshly picked vegetables, the gratification that comes from eating something you helped to prepare was another big factor that likely contributed to the students liking the lightly cooked vegetables and even asking for seconds!
With the increased attention school gardens, childhood nutrition, home gardening, and local foods are receiving nationally from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign  and White House Garden, opportunities are increasingly becoming available for everyone to join in the efforts to improve our own and our children’s eating habits, food choices and awareness of how and what we eat. Among national and local efforts to improve school lunches , establish community and school gardens, and advocate for better food policies, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved where ever you live.
Here are some resources to help you find such an opportunity, as well as a recipe for fresh mint tea, which the Washington Youth Garden kids definitely enjoyed!
American Community Garden Association 
Let’s Move Campaign 
Slow Food USA (Chapters nation-wide) 
Time for Lunch Program (Slow Food USA) 
DC Field to Fork Network 
Google.com  (Just do a search for your city and “community garden” or “school gardens”)
Fresh Mint Tea
4 quarts water
5 -6 single serving bags of black tea
1 bunch of fresh mint (about 1 to 1-1/2 cups packed), leaves removed (discard stems)
1 cup evaporated cane juice sugar, plus more to taste
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, turn off heat and add tea bags and loose mint leaves. Let steep for about 5 – 10 minutes. Strain the tea into a heat-proof pitcher and stir in sugar. Serve warm or allow tea to cool and serve over ice.