During the annual spring Chapel service for the entire student body on Thursday, St. Margaret’s launched its 2021 all-school service learning project, a partnership with The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano to support its Nourishing Neighbors program that grew out of needs in the local community compounded by the pandemic. The Ecology Center began Nourishing Neighbors to donate 20 percent of the organic, high-quality produce it grows on its 28-acre regenerative farm to feed food-insecure families in San Juan Capistrano through weekly Farm Share Harvest Boxes containing fruits, vegetables, herbs and pantry staples.
Over the next month, St. Margaret’s will lead a schoolwide donation drive for additional needed household supplies, identified in partnership with The Ecology Center, to be added to the Harvest Boxes. Each school division will lead a drive for specific items to support different recipients’ expressed needs, often related to the family’s composition from those with young children to senior citizens. St. Margaret’s will also encourage community members to purchase a one-time Harvest Box of Ecology Center produce for their family, to be distributed on campus on April 29, with $15 of the cost of the box funding the Nourishing Neighbors program. Additionally, families can make donations to the program through St. Margaret’s—100 percent of these donations will go to fund the Nourishing Neighbors program.
In the spring each year, St. Margaret’s engages in teaching and learning about and active support of a need in the community in partnership with a local organization. Past projects include a shoe drive and creating hope boxes of pantry and hygiene supplies for Family Assistance Ministries, and a relief fund with the Episcopal Church for those impacted by the 2018 Camp wildfire in Northern California and the Woolsey wildfire Southern California. Service learning at St. Margaret’s is in alignment with the school’s mission and core values, and aims to create better understanding of societal issues and systemic causes, engender empathy for others, meet authentic versus perceived needs, build life skills through experiential projects and nurture deeper connection, engagement and responsibility to serve the community.
“At St. Margaret’s we are wholly in service to our community in every way, every day, through educating the hearts and minds of young people to go out into the world in service, learning and leadership, and in doing so lifting up those around us,” said Head of School Will Moseley. “To quote one of my personal heroes Muhammad Ali: Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.
“We all have a responsibility to contribute and nurture the health and wellbeing of our entire community of which we are a part and live and exist in together. When one suffers or has need, we all hurt and have a responsibility to take care of each other,” Mr. Moseley said.
Upper School Director of Community Life Lora Allison, who has been an instrumental leader in cultivating the strong partnership between the school and the center over the past decade, said, “Recently we were in communication with our longtime community partner, The Ecology Center, about ways we could help grow its expanding Nourishing Neighbors program. Knowing the significant and unforeseeable impact to the health and welfare of so many in our local community hardest hit by the pandemic, we were eager for St. Margaret’s to help through our all-school service learning project.
“Our service learning leadership team from our four divisions immediately began learning more about the program and our neighbors it supports, and planning age-appropriate educational opportunities for students of all grades about nutrition, farm-to-table models, food insecurity and pandemic-related inequities. We have also created meaningful ways for our students to engage in service to support the real needs of local families,” said Mrs. Allison.
St. Margaret’s service learning leadership team also includes Director of Equity and Inclusion Victor Cota, Early Childhood School Pedagogista Diane Fletcher, Lower School Director of Community Life Tupper Spring, and Middle School Director of Community Kylie Middlebrook, who have been developing the division learning content as well as organizing their community drives supporting the Farm Share Harvest Boxes for local families:
- Early Childhood School community will collect children’s garden discovery items, including bug boxes, magnifying glasses and gardening tools
- Lower School community will collect children’s art supplies, including watercolor kits, sketchbooks and colored-pencil sets.
- Middle School community will collect kitchen and cooking tools including wooden spoons, cutting mats and mixing bowls.
- Upper School community will collect stationery, stamps, journals, sketchbooks for senior citizens.
- Professional Community members from business offices and student and campus services departments will collect new children’s backpacks.
CLICK HERE to access the St. Margaret’s 2021 All-School Service Learning Project page with all the ways to participate and donate. The 2021 All-School Service Learning Project will conclude on April 30.
The Ecology Center Founder and Executive Director Evan Marks said, “Recognizing that we are only healthy when we all have health, is what motivates us to grow and provide access to quality ingredients that support healthy lifestyles. As one of the last organic farms in the county, we believe in a food culture that gives more than it takes. We put this belief into action by donating 20 percent of what we grow to food-insecure families in our neighborhood, and we are grateful for St. Margaret’s partnership, support and commitment in this effort.”
The Ecology Center
has been a site of St. Margaret’s field trips, student engagement and service, sustainability education and celebrations and a key partner in the development of St. Margaret’s school garden program. Assistant Head of School for Strategic Initiatives Ryan Dahlem, who leads the service learning team, said, “We highly value the vital role and significant contributions of The Ecology Center in our community and we are grateful to continue our partnership with their dedicated and visionary team. We share their goal of building relationships with our community neighbors and providing access to quality ingredients that support healthy lifestyles. We know our mission and core values to be in service to others lives in the hearts of all Tartans, and that together our community will rise to this opportunity to support and lift up our San Juan Capistrano neighbors.”
to read more about The Ecology Center Nourishing Neighbors program.