When we were first experimenting with flavors for our chocolates, we both agreed that to make extraordinary chocolates, we needed to source our flavors from extraordinary people. At that time Kira had been working with a group at the University of Pennsylvania that was spending time in public schools setting up nutrition programs. One of their new efforts was a student run garden at Drew Elementary and UC High School in Philadelphia. Both of us agreed that we needed to incorporate the kids into the new product line, and what better ingredient for the students to grow than mint!
So after consulting with the new student gardeners, we settled on a patch of Kentucky Colonel mint, grown and tended caringly by the kids and sold to us every week. We arranged a courier to make weekly pickups, and the partnership was born.
Currently, the mint is housed in the students' new greenhouse which extends the growing season and allows them to produce higher quality mint in larger quantities. But we still use more mint than these Philadelphia students can feasibly produce.
So, this year we have added a few more urban gardens to our student mint project.
Teens 4 Good: Builds long term, working relationships with students from Philly high schools through a teen run gardening and nutrition business. teens4good.com.
The Village of Arts and Humanities: Twelve arts parks and an after-school program for kids in North Philadelphia dedicated to community revitalization. villagearts.org.
Common Good City Farm: An urban farm and education center for low income residents in Washington, DC. commongoodcityfarm.org.
Each of these initiatives teaches their students and the community about gardens for food, biodiversity and to instill an appreciation of nature. The gardens also provide a safe, supportive after-school space and, through grants and sales of their crops, offers paying jobs for some of the students.
These projects fit perfectly with our philosophy. It is our hope that our creations offer you two opportunities for personal enjoyment. The first is to take pleasure in the amazingly delicious chocolates themselves. The second is the opportunity to commune (through the palate) with the farmers and growers that create our flavors. One of our hopes is that the taste of the Garden Mint (most of which is supplied by the student gardeners at University City High School) will pique interest in the school garden movement and ultimately motivate people to support similar local projects. So if you would like to learn more about our student gardeners in Philadelphia, you can visit their website at www.urbannutrition.org
There are similar school garden projects across the country. If you are interested in learning about a program in your area, here are a few leads:
National Farm School Program
New York, NY: Just Food
Red Hook, NY: Added Value and Herban Solutions/Red Hook Farmers Market
Gainsville, FL: Neighborhood Nutrition Network
Lubbock, Texas: South Plains Food Bank, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA: Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids
Berkeley, CA: The Edible Schoolyard