ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Organizers of a proposed Rochester River School want to provide meatless meals to students from a self-sustaining student garden on campus.
At a proposed Rochester charter school focused on “humane education,” students would grow their own food in both outdoor and indoor gardens, and would be responsible for harvesting, cleaning and cooking lunches on site, WHEC reports.
Organizers are currently trying to sell officials at the Rochester City School District on the idea, which would center on a vegan lifestyle and curriculum that supposedly designed to engage students in nature.
The vegan focus would mean no milk or eggs, or meat, served at the school.
“Those things would be maybe eye-opening to people,” co-founder Joel Helfrich told TWC News. “But we are basing our school on existing models both here in Rochester and in the United States that work and have been successful. So we’re doing some things differently, but we’re also following best practices at every turn.”
Co-founder Jericsson Pichardo told the news site he attended a similar school, Harbor School in New York City, that taught him how to better connect with the world, and he’s hoping that nautical, scientific, and health lessons centered on the Genesee River will do the same in Rochester.
“We’re not allowing people to have access to a resource that belongs to them,” Pichardo said. “So that’s why being part of a Rochester River School is so important, because we’re bringing nature back to the students again.”
According to the Rochester River School website:
Our school is modeled after both the Common Ground Charter School in Connecticut, which runs a school, farm, and environmental education center, and the Urban Assembly Harbor School in New York City. Like the Harbor School, we are attempting to create the best place-based, ecosystem-centered school in the country. In our vision, we anticipate a reorientation and reconnection toward the Genesee River, a currently underused, underappreciated, and underutilized waterway. We also expect that our school will act as a driving force for economic development in the neighborhood and eventually the larger community.
We expect to open the school in the fall of 2017 with Kindergarten and add one grade each year until the school includes Kindergarten through 12. There will be 50-60 students per grade level, separated into two to three sections. The school is open to any student who lives in the City of Rochester, but on a blind lottery system of students who select the Rochester River School. The school will ultimately be located in a new, state-of-the-art “green” building based on the principles of sustainability. In addition to the main school building, we expect to build two research field stations along the Genesee River.
Helfrich told WHEC that organizers are currently trying to figure out how the school’s proposed all-plant diet will jibe with U.S. Department of Agriculture “healthy lunch” restrictions championed by first lady Michelle Obama.
School officials hope to secure federal funding for student lunches through the National School Lunch Program, but it remains unclear whether the federal government will sign off on vegan only offerings.
“We have to figure out whether the USDA will provide money for a lunch that doesn’t include dairy,” Helfrich said. “If that’s the case, we can take some government funding in order to provide free lunches to our children and the students at our school. If it doesn’t, that will bring about other challenges like fundraising and figuring out how to make that work.”