Nourishing Community: Silver Creek Leadership Academy Capstone Project Combines Love of Food with Love for Longmont

Growing up as the daughter of a dietitian, Silver Creek High School Senior Madeline Karr remembers being conscious of the power and potential of food from an early age. In her household, a wide variety or nutritious ingredients, plentiful fruits and vegetables, and accessible healthy snacks was always the norm. And while Karr’s mother, Kaiser Permanente registered dietitian Sue Heikkinen, Ms, Rd, CDE, took care to emphasize the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, Karr didn’t grow up feeling restricted or overly managed with regard to her food choices. Rather, she recalls growing increasingly conscious of the possibilities offered by food, and empowered to personally make –and create—healthy food choices.

Karr’s experience learning about nutrition and combining that knowledge with a love of cooking made the task of developing a concept for her Silver Creek Leadership Academy Senior Capstone Project a fairly straightforward one. Since the beginning of this 2017-18 academic year, Karr’s Capstone project, For the Love of Food, has continuously evolved in exciting and meaningful ways. The project’s focus, promoting healthy cooking and eating to Longmont children and their families, remains the rock solid core. However, as she progresses in her work, Karr’s project has steadily developed to include a broad variety of channels through which to support community with lasting stamina. Throughout the fall, Karr supported and assisted with healthy cooking after school enrichment classes for students grades K-5 at Burlington Elementary School. She intends to continue her involvement with cooking classes at Burlington for the spring semester, and is also working on a cookbook containing simple recipes and activities designed for kids and their families to be distributed at Burlington Elementary and through the OUR Center. For this month, however, her focus is putting together a Little Free Pantry for use by the Burlington school community.

The Little Free Pantry movement applies the Little Free Library® Concept to activate community engagement in addressing food insecurity. The message is simple: give what you can, take what you need. Neighbors help neighbors. “I read an article in the Times-Call this past September, about the first Little Free Pantry installed in Longmont outside the First Evangelical Lutheran Church,” Karr says. “I loved the concept. It felt like a true community initiative with no stigma. It also helps reduce food waste. I wondered right away if I could somehow incorporate something like this into my project.”

Karr recalled how, last school year another student had begun building a cabinet intended for use as a Little Free Library as part of his Capstone Project. A location was never finalized however, and that intended portion of the project was not completed. Recognizing the potential, Karr sought permission to complete the cabinet and turn it instead into a Little Free Pantry. Permission granted, next step was to determine a location. Given Karr’s experience working with Burlington students, the school seemed a natural fit. She proposed her idea to Burlington Principal Kerin McClure, who responded enthusiastically.

In January, the Little Free Pantry was successfully installed at Burlington Elementary for use by the Burlington community. Karr isn’t resting on the laurels of accomplishment, however. She is now turning her focus to development of a kid-friendly, healthy cookbook to be distributed to cooking class students, and also through the OUR Center. Want to lend support, or simply learn more? Follow For the Love of Food on Instagram, under the handle scla_love_of_food. Contact Karr by email at [email protected]. Your feedback and involvement is welcome: every bit counts. “I am feeling so many emotions as my project comes to fruition,” Karr says. “Surprise, relief, excitement. It is wonderful to know my project has evolved from the earliest brainstorming phases to having a solid legacy, something that will continue to support our community into the future.”

For more information, read the complete story in the January/February issue of Longmont Magazine. 

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