As a youth mentor with Bay Area Wilderness Training [BAWT], a nonprofit that creates equitable outdoor experiences for low-income youth of color, I believe it is important to integrate nature into our schools. Under BAWT’s guidance, I took high school and middle school students who had endured trauma to overnight nature healing-retreats in Yosemite, Mount Shasta, and Black Oak. There are multiple studies that have shown that children do better in school when they are in an environment that has trees and vegetation.
The current OUSD Climate Action Plan allows for environmental infrastructure that I plan to expand upon by integrating nature into our schools by planting trees and building a K-12 pipeline from school to green jobs careers for our children to consider environmental engineering, as a means of exiting poverty (as described in parts of the current California State environmental laws and the federal Green New Deal.
Once Oakland City Council and Alameda County take on resolutions to implement parts of the Green New Deal, I can work closely with all groups to make sure that there is language in the resolution that allows space for schools to implement environmental classes and integrate environmental curriculums in permaculture sustainability.
Another important goal is to improve the school food programs available to our children.
I plan to be a strong supporter of OUSD Central Kitchen, which presents a new kind of social contract: a public school kitchen, used by both the school and the community as a resource for educational, vocational, and production purposes. The kitchen optimizes a public space to support student health and improve academic achievement; promote justice and equity; and enhance food security, emergency preparedness, and the economic advancement and vitality of local communities.
School-community kitchens are rooted in three movements: (1) the growing effort to improve school food, (2) the creation of full service community schools, which attend to the health of the whole child within a family and community context, and (3) a national and international movement on behalf of community kitchens. School-community kitchens are an example of what author and farmer Wendell Berry calls a “solution which causes a ramifying series of solutions.”
Oakland’s history of food insecurity in the Black and Brown community dates back to the history of land rights issues during the gold rush and later the building of the Port of Oakland, which disintegrated the practice of growing our own food in order to take on more industrious jobs. The idea that people of color not knowing how to grow healthy organic food in their backyard or on school grounds even, is a myth. There are many Black and Brown homes all over Oakland who still know how to grow their own food and the stigmatization must stop. This is what leads to the undermining of historical cultural foods that we’ve been feeding our children for centuries. Food insecurity is 100% people-made, and no need for 1 in 6 children to go hungry in America.
I believe that once environmental classes are implemented, having a garden on site as a part of the permaculture program would be essential in our fight to help our children’s futures.