Culinary Education and “Farm-to-table” Model in Wilderness Therapy EnvironmentJuly 17, 2020
“Rice and beans” is often considered a staple diet for students in wilderness therapy programs. They are easy to prepare and reasonably light to carry while backpacking, but don’t always offer a variety of nutrients that the body needs to fuel itself during adventure activities. Trails Momentum takes healthy living practices and holistic therapy to the next level through culinary instruction, gardening lessons, and nutritional guidance. Trails Momentum is a unique wilderness therapy program in that students spend half of their time at base camp, which is complete with a full indoor kitchen, where students learn to prepare healthy meals using local produce that is high in nutrients.
What Does Gardening Look Like on Campus?
Gardening is the perfect crossover between our wilderness therapy model and nutrition education programming. Not only does growing food help teach lessons about sustainability and responsibility, it also gives students the opportunity to learn in a hands-on way. Plus, there are many physical health benefits to digging in the dirt, releasing serotonin and calming the central nervous system.
“Our gardening program uses a lot of resources that we have available on-campus and in the local community– including building rich soil out of compost, using our stream to water produce, reclaiming wood for raised garden beds, and mulching the garden with fallen pine needles,” explains Nutrition and Wellness Specialist, Charlotte Christensen, MS. “We also support local businesses by using seeds and produce from local vendors as a way to build relationships within the community.”
This summer, Momentum began a partnership with a local farm, Crab Creek Produce, to source local produce for our students and participate in community service by helping out on the farm.
On campus, Trails Momentum has three primary gardens where students get hands-on by weeding and watering the food they grow — the Herb Garden, the Cowboy Garden, and the Keyhole Garden, where students experiment with permaculture techniques, like Hugelkultur. There is also an educational garden utilized as a part of the Environmental Education program.
Some of the food grown on campus includes greens, herbs, yellow squash, cucumber, melons, tomato, carrot, peppers, and more!
Why Offer Healthy Living Seminars for Young Adults?
Healthy Living Seminars at Trails Momentum give students the tools that they need to make empowered decisions about their diet and lifestyle once they leave the program. This summer, these classes have been focused on gardening, food sources, and environmental consequences. Momentum’s base camp model gives students a unique opportunity to utilize fresh ingredients more than many traditional wilderness therapy programs which tend to use more processed, packaged, and dehydrated foods.
Charlotte believes that ”as a mental health program, sourcing homegrown and local produce is key because mental health is not necessarily separate from physical health. It is important to support our student’s brains and bodies with healthfully prepared, nutrient-dense foods packed with the micro and macronutrients supporting a balanced and fulfilling life in a sustainable way.”
How Do Culinary Lessons Prepare Students for Independent Living?
We cook with students every single night–cooking techniques and life skills. During our culinary lessons, we use every opportunity to create teachable moments. Culinary skills classes help students develop essential life skills and redefine the relationship that they have with food and their bodies.
Following recipes offers structure for young adults who have limited culinary experience. Many young adults struggle with prioritizing time to cook, particularly for just one person, and rely on microwave meals and snacks to get through the day. Between classes and unpredictable work schedules, we recognize that it can be difficult for young adults to eat nutritious meals. Meal prep and nutrition education can help young adults develop healthier habits and routines that will help them make progress towards their personal and career goals.
Recently, graduates of the program put together a cookbook based on recipes learned during culinary skills classes as part of their Legacy Project. We teach students how to prepare homestyle meals, like sloppy joes, spaghetti and meatballs, and stir-frys, that are healthfully prepared from scratch in a way that these recipes and skills can be carried with them wherever their journey takes them.
Learn more about our nutrition and culinary education programming at Trails Momentum by calling (877) 296-8711.