Growing Food

Third Graders See Their Crop on the Menu at Prairie Grass Cafe

“This is the first time that I ate something I grew,” says third grader Janie Levitan. Lots of kids get to do that, of course, but not all of them wind up seeing it on a menu at an acclaimed restaurant. Janie attends Ravinia School in Highland Park and is a member of the Green Growers Club, which grows hydroponic lettuce in a greenhouse. And along with getting to watch plants grow and see their own handiwork produce food, every Friday, the club delivers a shipment of tender, hyperlocal butter lettuce to Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, where chef Sarah Stegner turns it into her Ravinia School Salad with apple and blue cheese ($9.50). A couple of years ago an article in The Atlantic questioned the value of taking time away from math drilling, say, to do the supposedly menial work of gardening, but besides it being, you know, biology, Stegner says “I strongly believe that having a food curriculum in school is paramount. The kids get to see where food comes from beginning to end and each step of the way. It changes the way they think and ultimately educates them in making smarter food choices.” Here are some pictures by press representative Cindy Kurman of a recent media event at the greenhouse, with Stegner in attendance as the kids look over their fast-growing work.

The greenhouse at Ravinia School, built through a fundraising effort by parents and staff in 2000.
The Green Growers Club.
Program head Dennis Brousseau, who teaches third grade, cuts some hydroponically grown lettuce.
Brousseau offers a taste of the club’s work as chef Sarah Stegner looks on.
Tastes good.
Learning how plants grow.
The next crop growing.
The Ravinia School Salad at Prairie Grass Cafe.
Third Graders See Their Crop on the Menu at Prairie Grass Cafe