Do you remember the first time you tasted a ripe tomato? A hand-massaged kale leaf? A carrot plucked straight from the earth? For most of our students, their first experience with fresh veggies and fruits is in the garden at school. Few who witness a child try a homegrown carrot for the first time will forget the incredible experience of pleasure and discovery. Kaitlin Mogentale, a former GSF intern at 24th Street, can remember many such magical moments from her time in the garden. “The transformative power of the garden is amazing,” she says. “I was touched by the fact that many of the kids had never seen a fresh carrot in their lives.” As Kaitlin soon learned, few things are more rewarding than watching a student evolve and expand their horizons through gardening and cooking. While many students begin the school year disliking the taste of tomatoes, those same students often end the year knowing how to transform carrots and kale into delicious meals they can share with their families. What had inspired these kids to be more curious and adventurous in their eating? “The garden,” says Kaitlin. “Nothing can compare to or replace that direct experience kids get in the garden.”
Kaitlin’s passion for food justice was growing. By time time she graduated from the University of Southern California, she was well-versed in the challenges that many communities in Los Angeles currently face – from lack of access to healthy, fresh food to geographical isolation, gentrification and food waste. Through her work with GSF and her background in Environmental Studies, Kaitlin began to deeply question who has the means to thrive in LA today.
Like any major city, Los Angeles produces an enormous amount of food waste while also struggling to feed and nourish all of its inhabitants. Kaitlin experienced this tension first hand upon moving to LA to attend school. As a native of Chicago, and an outsider to LA, she was especially attuned to the disparities in wealth and food access between her university community and the surrounding neightborhoods. During her final year at USC, Kaitlin had an epiphany when she watched a friend juice a carrot and noticed that a large amount of fresh pulp was left behind. Her friend had no idea how to use this leftover pulp, which meant it was headed for the trash. Kaitlin began to wonder how much waste was produced by LA’s many juicers and how she might save the thousands of pounds of nutrient-dense pulp. Not long after, she founded Pulp Pantry, a company devoted to making healthy grain and gluten free snacks from upcycled fruit and vegetable juice pulp.
Kaitin’s love of baking and interest in food activism inspired her to not only tackle the crucial issue of food waste but also how we talk about food and waste. “It’s not interesting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” says Kaitlin. “The challenge is really changing how people think about the word waste.” As Kaitlin has noted, its easy to feel discouraged when discussing environmental issues and food systems. This phenomenon is often referred to as “eco depression” which presents yet another challenge for food activists. Through her work with Pulp Pantry, Kaitlin is doing her part to turn the harsh reality of massive food waste into an avenue of tangible change for the future. You can read about Kailtin and all the incredible work she does on Pulp Pantry’s website.
Want to make your holidays a little sweeter? Anyone who donates to Garden School’s crowdfunding campaign EAT TOGETHER, GROW TOGETHER between 11/28-12/7 will enter a raffle for the chance to win a limited edition Holiday Gift Box from Pulp Pantry.Your handcrafted Holiday Gift Box includes 3 Granola Flavors, 2 limited edition Baking Mixes, and 2 artisan vegan soaps.