‘Making the impossible happen’

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Typing Letter to the Editor for the Opinion page.

Thanks to Mimi Omiecinski’s community-building efforts, Pi Day, with its Einstein contest and family fun, has become an annual frolic. A less visible benefit is the partnership that Pi Day fosters between iconic institutions that enables food systems literacy programs for students at Princeton Public Schools (PPS).

Each year, proprietors Jen Carson of Lillipies bakery and Gab Carbone (and co-founder and business partner Matt Errico) of the bent spoon ice cream parlor create a Pi Day Sundae sold around 3.14. This year, they created cherry Lillipies with choice of ice cream at the bent spoon, and brownie Lillipies with mascarpone ice cream at Lillipies, Princeton Shopping Center.

These entrepreneurs donate all proceeds to our K-12 projects that use seasonal, local foods to illustrate and amplify curriculum, to improve school meals, to connect students to campus lands, and to recognize and celebrate the diverse student population.

That’s just the annual capstone. Their generosity of spirit carries on through the years, making the impossible happen, little by little:

Jen shows up at the district’s Teaching Kitchens to teach the chemistry of bread and pastry as backdrop for ingredients from Princeton Middle School’s (PMS) Edible Gardens. She hosts students in Lillipies’ kitchens for workshops. Before Lillipies, she was among chefs for our ongoing after-school seed to table program, PPS Cooks+Gardens, at our town’s only Teaching Kitchens (at PMS). There, she worked alongside the Edible Gardens Educator/Steward, providing students with hands-on, five-senses skills in growing a salad, reading a label, setting a table, and cooking for themselves and their classmates.

Since 2006, the bent spoon has partnered with another Princeton institution, the Whole Earth Center, making a monthly custom ice cream with seasonal ingredients from local artisan producers, from Terhune Orchards (think apple and caramel) to mint from the students’ own Edible Gardens at each of the school campuses. 

The bent spoon and Whole Earth Center donate all proceeds of those sales to our Garden State on Your Plate program, which spotlights seasonal, local produce items and growers and restaurateurs and chefs who use them – and is the tip of the spear for all our food systems literacy work.

This steady funding, coupled with grants bestowed by employees of Church & Dwight, has enabled the hiring of the district’s first Food Systems Literacy coordinator, Tomia MacQueen, supervised by Dr. Joy Barnes-Johnson. Tomia, charged with working behind the scenes, has succeeded in having each month’s Garden State on Your Plate produce item included on school lunch menus at least once a week! 

The Garden State on Your Plate program, with its collection of posters created by Fran McManus, one of our co-founders, offers myriad opportunities for faculty to integrate school meals and campus lands (where all the starring produce items are grown each year) into curriculum. 

Lillipies, the bent spoon, and Whole Earth Center are pillars in the village it takes to support this work.

We are so grateful.

Karla Cook, co-founder and board chair

Princeton School Gardens Cooperative, Inc.