Being sent to the principal’s office might not be so bad if you were offered a piece of fresh fruit. Astoria High School Vice Principal, Chad Madsen, has a bowl of organic apples and pears from the Co-op in his office. This is only his first year as vice principal, but already kids know this is where they can come get fruit; they don’t have to be in trouble to do so, but in some cases, the fruit acts as a peace offering.
“There’s actually a lot of times when a kid comes in, let’s say they’re had a difficult situation in a classroom or they’ve in a bad mood or things aren’t going well and I’ll ask if they’re hungry and a lot of times that answer is yes. A lot of times you will see surprise on a student’s face more than anything. A lot of times this kid is in big trouble, and the first thing I do is say, grab an apple, let’s talk. I don’t know if it’s the physical effect of actually getting some sustenance in their body or maybe just the community piece of that. It sometimes does help for that communication to be a little less contentious, a little more positive,” Madsen said.
Madsen got the idea from his dad, a teacher, who worked with an orchardist to provide an abundant supply of fresh apples in the elementary school Madsen attended in Hood River. When Madsen grew up and became a teacher (he taught PE, health, and math) he was shocked to discover some kids either not eating, or eating unhealthy foods. He says that feeling of always knowing you can have something to snack on is a mental relief because a lot of kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
This is a collaboration with the Co-op offering seasonal organic fruit at cost and the North Coast Food Web providing funding and support. NCFW Food Systems Coordinator, Renia Ydstie, replenishes Madsen’s fruit supply as needed, usually a few times a week. Ydstie also works part-time at the high school as a youth transitions specialist.
“It’s working with the people who often need it most in a way that’s really concrete. It unifies a lot of parts of the community; to get a piece of fruit to one kid takes all these people working together and everyone is so wholeheartedly invested in it,” Ydstie said.
Not to sound cliché, but Ydstie says this kind of relationship between people and food is building community through food, which happens to be the Co-op’s mission. Ydstie and Madsen both hope to see the program continue and maybe even expand one day to reach even more students.
If you’d like to contribute to this effort, we’ve got donation jars at our cash registers!