Experiential Learning at its Very Best

Author: 

  • Leah Schroeder

Historically, school cafeteria lunches have not been known for their gourmet qualities. Growing up, I learned this very quickly and chose to forgo the cafeteria’s gooey Sloppy Joes and mushy green beans by packing my lunch, which I deemed much more enticing, if not less offensive.

Joy Yoder has put an end to this madness and is creating dishes that even the most discerning palate can devour. As the Food Service Manager at Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen, Indiana, Joy has taken the art of cafeteria food to a whole new level. What is her secret? Three words: local, fresh vegetables.

During the first week of school, Joy served up a school favorite: hamburgers topped with fresh heirloom tomatoes. Other delicious, seasonal dishes like zucchini chowder, grilled veggie sandwichs and freshly made applesauce adorn her menu.

In the past, Joy has used fresh produce brought in by faculty and Bethany families whose gardens had provided more bounty than they could eat. She enjoys using a cookbook, Simply in Season, for many of the dishes she serves in her cafeteria. “You won’t find melon in my kitchen in December,” Joy laughs. Earlier this year, when she tilled a garden plot near the school for the first time, she not only envisioned fresh vegetables to use in her cafeteria, but also a creative avenue to provide food education to the fourth–12th graders who attend Bethany Christian.

“I’ve gardened in the past and miss doing it, now that I don’t have one,” Joy tells me. She had success using herbs that were growing in the friendship garden beside the cafeteria and thought that a full-fledged vegetable garden should be in order. When I spoke with her in August, the garden was in its full glory. Marigolds circled caged heirloom tomato plants, while cucumbers joyfully climbed a tall trellis. The cantaloupes were ripening and the peppers were just starting to turn colors. It was a beautiful sight.

Bethany is benefiting from its own garden in more places than just the cafeteria.

(...read the full Edible Michiana article here!)