Food For Thought

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On an already warm morning I met with Lori Hamor, Executive Director of Food for Thought (FFT). Befittingly we met at The Farmer and the Cook, Ojai’s locally grown organic market and restaurant where we settled down to talk about the grant awarded to FFT by the Ojai Women’s Fund.

Lori is the mother of two glorious daughters, smart, thinking, fun and active people who went through the OUSD system. Her oldest daughter was in kindergarten when Lori first volunteered at FFT in 2004. Over the years Lori’s involvement grew, and when a co-founder’s untimely death occurred in 2010, she took on the role of Executive Director. A role she’s taken on with vim and vigor!

FFT has been in existence for 15 years and, full disclosure, I was a board member in its earlier days. So, it was a nice surprise for me to find out how much the organization has grown, in part due to the OWF’s generous grant. Our grant specifically helped expand their Planting, Eating, Saving and Sharing program at the four elementary schools in Ojai.

The gardens that FFT has built at OUSD elementary schools are a wonderful sight to behold and provide delight to the small gardeners who till the earth, plant the seeds, harvest the crops, and then sell the produce at school farmer’s markets. About 5 years ago, FFT decided to help the students further understand the journey of food from farm to table by having them harvest seeds, propagate them, nurture them in a greenhouse, and then plant them in their school gardens. Extra seeds are carefully counted, packaged and swapped for seeds from other schools.

In addition to learning to become keen gardeners, kids learn math through the weighing and pricing of produce at markets, taking money and making change, as well as from counting the seeds for each package to swap. They sharpen their artistic skills by decorating the packets of seeds. They learn to appreciate climate and the change of seasons and how these affect plants. They discover a sense of community by working with others, setting up markets, and swapping their seeds. Lastly, and likely happily for parents, they try the food they grow and discover that broccoli and spinach are really very tasty!!

With our grant money FFT was able to pay more educators and buy materials such as screens to separate seeds and art supplies so the children could decorate the seed packets and envelopes to hold the seeds. Our grant also allowed for the publication of a small booklet “Save a Seed”.

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As with other organizations to which OWF has given grants, FFT reaches out to touch our community beyond its stated purpose. Lori says that the program, which was specifically designed for elementary schools, has led to a significant interest in environmental classes at both Matilija and Nordhoff. As students leave elementary school they carry their interest in botany, environmental studies, and gardening with them. At Meiners Oaks, Topa Topa, and Mira Monte the school librarians have started a seed library – and one is in the making at San Antonio now. A teacher’s husband did gorgeous botanical drawings for the booklet that FFT published, “Save a Seed”. I guess you could say that the OWF grant helped plant seeds in more than one way!

If you want to know more about the FFT organization, check out their website at foodforthoughtojai.org.