Carnivores to kale eaters . . . one high school student at a time.


OK, maybe no one actually said that exact phrase at this week’s Got Kale? Kale Yes! event held at Houston ISD’s John H. Reagan HS . . . but surely they were thinking it.

            Kale Day was a collaboration of effort by the HISD Aramark Nutrition Team, Reagan’s Ecology Club sponsored by Pre-AP biology teacher “Ms. V” along with the help (and persuasion) of Urban Harvest Youth Educator & garden volunteer, Irene Nava. The concept started with an abundance of kale that is growing in the school’s UHI Affiliate Garden. Staff and students who already liked kale appreciated the bold flavors of Tuscan Nero (aka “dinosaur kale”) and the tender salad qualities of Winterbor, a curly-leafed salad variety.

            But how could the other 2000+ students and staff on Reagan’s campus be convinced to try some of this “super food?” Free samples, of course!

            That’s where HISD Nutrition Education team came to the rescue.  The department, that serves over 270,000 school meals a day, is now staffed by three registered dietitians and one soon to be registered when just a few years ago, HISD had none. They provided the ingredients and the manpower in the kitchen to chop, blend and produce samples of our “Kool Kale Salad” and a “Green Power”smoothie (loosely based on Chef Roy’s creamy concoction sold at our farmers markets).

            “We were hoping to reach 10% of our population so we prepared enough for 200 samplings. In addition, the Reagan Eco Club made three flavors of kale chips for the students to try,” noted Ms. V. “The response was fantastic and overwhelmingly positive even though convincing them to take that first bite or sip was sometimes a challenge. Once they did, some were coming back for seconds or even thirds.”

            By the end of two lunch periods, over 300 portions of both the salad and the smoothies were served, plus most of the kale chips. Many students also picked up the recipes . . . some even made a donation to take home a transplant or a bouquet of freshly harvested kale from a school garden.

            What a difference a taste makes!

Hopefully, like the New Yorker who has become the Kale Crusader in Paris, the effects of the tasting event are just beginning. Perhaps some students will eat more greens this holiday season, or at least become less skeptical about trying a new food. Maybe we’ll even see kale on the HISD menu someday!

            What’s next . . . “Got Kohlrabi?”

Will you take our Thanksgiving Challenge?

This Thanksgiving we are challenging you to source as much of your Thanksgiving meal as possible from your backyard garden, community garden, or the farmers market.

It's so simple!

First, follow Urban Harvest on Facebook, Twitter (@UrbanHarvest), and/or Intstagram (@UrbanHarvestHouston). Then, using the #UHThanksgivingChallenge post a photo what you grew in your garden or bought at the farmers market alongside a photo of what you made using those local ingredients. If you do not have an app like PicStitch or InstaCollage, you can tag your ingredients with the #before and your final product with the #after.

Not sure what we're talking about?

Here's a great example from the blog Maybe you grew some green beans in your garden and bought some mushrooms from the farmers market. With those two ingredients, you came up with a fabulous green bean casserole for your Thanksgiving meal.


OKRA: Less than two weeks left!

If you've followed us on social media, read our weekly e-newsletter, or visited any of our markets, then you know that we are trying to win big at OKRA Charity Bar this November. 

How does it work?

With every drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and/or food item you purchase, you receive a ticket with which you can vote for one of four non-profits for the month. At the end of the month, the non-profit that wins the most customer votes receives the proceeds from OKRA for the entire month!

What's at stake?

The last non-profit that won at OKRA recieved $45,000! That amount of money could help us build three more school or community gardens in Houston. The majority of our school and community gardens are in food deserts, areas with little access to real, healthy food. More gardens mean more wholesome food and more green spaces for community engagement.  A brand new garden can mean a whole lot to a community.

What can you do?

Join us! Visit OKRA with friends and coworkers, have fun, and vote for Urban Harvest. You'll probably see one of us there.



Terry Hershey, longtime Urban Harvest supporter, honored by Audubon Texas

Audubon Texas and Houston Audubon Society will co-host the first annual luncheon benefitting Audubon’s new Texas Women in Conservation Program in Houston in February 2015. At this luncheon, an inaugural and esteemed group of outstanding women leaders in today’s conservation movement will be presented with the Terry Hershey Texas Women in Conservation Award for their work throughout Texas.
Terry Hershey has devoted and invested substantial passion, time, energy, and resources in significant conservation projects in Houston and throughout Texas. Mrs. Hershey is a former member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and a founding board member of Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association, Houston Audubon Society, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, The Park People, and Urban Harvest. She also is a past board member for Audubon Texas, National Audubon Society, National Recreation and Park Association, and The Trust for Public Land. In honor of this well-known “force of nature for nature,” Audubon is honored to name its Texas Women in Conservation Awards for Mrs. Hershey.
Urban Harvest is thrilled to see such a devoted supporter honored in this way.

Growing Community Engagement

          Hi, my name is Michael Little. I am a freshman at the University of Houston, and a member of the Bonner Leader Program. That's all good and fine you might say, but what exactly is the Bonner Leader Program?

            In essence, it is a program that provides students with the opportunity to serve their communities by working with various organizations in a mutual effort to better their communities. The program understands the importance of community involvement and places emphasis on the practice of learning through service.

            The program was founded in 1990 by Corella and Bertram Bonner as a scholarship program that provided financial assistance to students in exchange for them performing community service. The program has since grown, with active chapters in universities across the country. The University of Houston chapter is currently in its first year of service. This summer, incoming freshman who had been accepted into the Honors College at the University were invited to apply to the organization. From the pool of applicants, myself and 29 other students were selected for the program.

            As for my role in the program, I am serving as an intern for Urban Harvest, an organization that works with the community to organize community gardens, farmers markets, and school programs. With Urban Harvest, I am helping teach a class of children at a local elementary school with Urban Harvest visiting garden educator, Sherry Cruse. The children are able to learn about different plants, as well as soil, weather, and sustainable living by working in a garden on their school grounds, maintained by Urban Harvest in partnership with the school garden team.

            I am also helping manage the community garden at the University of Houston. We are in the process of renovating the garden, and hope to turn it into a place where students can relax and socialize, while at the same time providing a physical example of the importance of sustainable living. Those are my main two projects, though I also volunteer at various other events sponsored by Urban Harvest, as the occur.

            Over the next four years, I will continue to serve as an intern at Urban Harvest. During this time, I will continue to help manage the campus garden, and also have plans for creating a second garden on campus, as well as redoing an existing rooftop garden on the campus. I will also continue to build my relationship with the Urban Harvest team, and work on many more exciting projects as the opportunities appear.

By Michael Little

Urban Harvest Bonner Leader Program Intern 2013-2014

Editor's note: Michael is one of three Bonner Interns from the class of 2017 who have selected Urban Harvest as their organization for community engagement. Michael will periodically blog on the student gardening projects  happening in the Peck Elementary School Community Garden.  



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