By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
Eighth graders from Discovery Academy visited Lotus Pad on Friday and got to work on the wok.
As part of a middle school project exploring food insecurity, three eighth graders—Discovery lost its other three middle school students to a weekend ski competition—learned how to cook yellow curry from general manager Marsha Barker. Supervised by art teacher Hannah Boyd and assistant head of schools Beth Marlington, the students packed up 10 containers of curry to donate to the Big Sky Community Food Bank, where the tubs will be frozen and distributed by operations manager Sarah Gaither Bivins. The students hope this can spark a pattern for community restaurants.
“It needs to be 10 ounces of vegetables, 4 ounces of chicken,” explained eighth grade student Liam Bevan as he placed a small mixing bowl on the kitchen scale. After some instruction, Bevan and his classmates added Thai cuisine to their cooking resumes which they said included scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, white rice, cheesy pasta and “five out of ten” skill.
Under Barker’s close watch, the kids took turns cooking curry from start to finish on the wok. Using leftover frozen vegetables and rice, the students each stirred and packaged servings as part of a project overseen by lead middle school and high school science teacher Alessandra Balyasny.
“Each quarter of the school year, middle school students have a capstone project they work on,” Balyasny said. “We felt this was a perfect project for a real-life situation that focuses on specific goals.”
Among those goals, she said teachers wanted their students to practice communicating professionally with restaurant owners and chefs and learn to cook one or two meals. The students also interviewed Bivins from the food bank to contribute to the deliverables of the project: a paper on the importance of food banks, and a presentation to Discovery’s high school students.
“I think it’s a cool project to give the kids some perspective of what people go through in the real world as adults,” Balyasny said, adding that middle school-aged kids can struggle to put themselves in others’ shoes. She said the kids have done a great job thinking through food insecurity and designing a solution.
“Why don’t we go to restaurants, cook food and give it to food banks,” summarized Bevan of the project’s premise. He said the idea could apply to Big Sky’s restaurants that close for weeks at a time during the shoulder season, as they might otherwise dispose of leftover food supplies.
Barker said the Lotus Pad has been in business long enough that they’ve learned to plan for shoulder season and limit waste, “but some of the newer businesses maybe have extra stuff that they don’t use.
“It’s fun to get kids involved and teach them things,” Barker added.
Classmate Lily Hoeksema said they’ve been working on the project for the last six weeks.
“Basically we learned about food banks and spoke with [Sarah Gaither Bivins] to ask questions so we could write essays and give presentations about food banks and why they’re important, how they help people.”
Marlington said the project’s timing did not lend itself to restaurant involvement; the students reached out as eateries geared up for the holiday season.
Alternatively, Bevan suggested that “the mail demon” may have intercepted some emails.
If the former is true, seasonal follow-ups in April or September might generate more participation from restaurants. In the case of the latter, restaurant owners might check their junk inbox and change their password.