Students churn out lunch for community
School is out for the summer, but the work isn’t over for local high school students who are part of YouthLaunch’s Urban Roots program. This year, 30 teens made the cut to work on Urban Roots’ East Austin farm, which will yield 30,000 pounds of produce that the students sell at local farmers’ markets and give to area nonprofits. During the past few weeks, some of the food they’ve grown has gone to community lunches that the students prepare with the help of a local chef.
On an early morning last week, a handful of teens met in the kitchen of La Condesa restaurant downtown with chef René Ortiz, who helped put on his first community lunch last year. “I call it a community chaos dinner,” Ortiz said jokingly as he maneuvered between stations, guiding his new cooks in how to chop chives or cut up eggplant that they had grown on the farm just east of U.S. 183.
“This is what everybody looks forward to,” said Garza High School student Leffler Ramey as he plucked leaves off New Zealand spinach plants in the cool restaurant kitchen. “It’s a nice change to be working inside instead of on the farm.”
With the addition of a few other ingredients donated by Bastrop Cattle Company and Farm to Table, Ortiz and the students made enchiladas, chiles rellenos, fried okra, quinoa salad and jalapeño poppers that they served a few hours later under the shade of trees near rows of tomato and okra plants that the student workers will continue to harvest from until the end of July when this year’s program comes to a close.
Ethan Holmes of Snap Kitchen will work with the students for the final community lunch of the summer on Friday, which sold out a few weeks ago, but you can still support the students by signing up for their community-supported agriculture program or by seeking them out at the farmers market on Saturday downtown and at the Triangle on Wednesdays.
You can also volunteer on the farm or donate farm supplies or money. To find out more, go to youthlaunch.org/programs/urbanroots.php.
High school students in the Urban Roots program take a break from work on a nonprofit farm in East Austin to serve food they helped grow and, with chef René Ortiz’s help, cook.