New developments for Evening Meals at Lopez School

The Evening Meals at School just keep getting better.

The Evening Meals at School just keep getting better.

After an auspicious start in January 2008, the event, which serves delicious community meals using local ingredients, took a hiatus over the summer. It started again in September, once again serving upwards of 300 people.

In line with the goal of supporting and encouraging local food production, organizers of Evening Meals at School pay full price for island farmers to grow produce for the monthly dinners. This autumn, the old harvest tradition of gleaning is finding new life through the Evening Meals program. Gleaning can mean either using produce grown on commercial farms that is not cosmetically up to commercial standards, or harvesting surplus produce from backyard gardens. Think of all those extra pounds of zucchini, broccoli or kale in the garden, or family orchards heavy with more apples, plums, or pears than you can handle.

Since September, backyard farmers on the island have been offering their time and surplus to provide ingredients for meals. Families and farmers can either harvest their own extra bounty for the event, or call for a “gleaning team” to be sent. Any food that the chefs don’t use for the community meals is donated to the school kitchen for kids’ daily lunches.

Jean Perry, who is co-chef of the evening meals with Kim Bast, is the contact person for gleaning questions, including selling or donating produce or volunteering to be on a gleaning team. She can be reached at 468-4740.

“It’s a trickle-down program that serves everyone. We are forming alliances that benefit us all,” said Perry. Her goal is that there will be no waste. She adds that in addition to giving fresh produce to the school, occasional “leftovers” from the dinners are served in the lunchroom the following day too, giving school children the opportunity to try foods they may never have tried before – like quinoa and rutabagas. “There are so many pieces of this program that fit together fruitfully,” she says.

Bast, who has prepared the evening meals with Perry since the event’s inception, is currently in Turin, Italy to participate in Terra Madre, the International Slow Food Convention. She is joining delegates from 150 countries to celebrate, encourage, and sustain the biodiversity of food. Terra Madre (Mother Earth) is sponsored by Slow Food International, and the gathering aims to support and promote local food heritage, culture, and traditions. Meeting with more than 7,000 other cooks, food educators, food producers, and students from around the globe, Kim will represent the unique food community and culture of Lopez. Look for a handout about her participation at December’s Evening Meal at School.

Three of the chefs from local restaurant Vita’s Wildly Delicious will replace Bast for October’s evening meal on Thursday, Oct., 30, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Lopez School multi-purpose room. Joining Jean Perry will be Vita’s Wildly Delicious co-owner Joyce Brinar and cooks Mary Jenison and Wendy Westervelt to prepare “Three Sisters” stew, quinoa and brown rice pilaf, traditional corn bread, Lopez greens with herb vinaigrette, and island apple and pear crisp. Locally gathered tea by Llewellyne Arden will also be served. The Three Sisters stew includes Painted Mountain Corn grown specifically for the meal by Cedar Charnley, who was raised on Lopez and recently moved back to the island.

All meals are held at Lopez School on the last Thursday of each month. Admission was previously $5, but it wasn’t covering the cost of food. Since April, admission has been by donation, and now 90 percent of the costs are being met. Since both Thanksgiving and Christmas fall on the final Thursday of the month this year, the next Evening Meal at School will be on Thursday, Dec. 11.

To find recipes from previous dinners, learn more about Evening Meals at School and gleaning, or to volunteer please go to: