Stu­dents churn out lunch for com­mu­nity

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD & LIFE - — Ad­die Broyles

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 to­grams/ur­ban­roots.php.

Ad­die Broyles amer­i­can-states­man

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.

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