Food for Thought

Santa Barbara Middle School Builds Community in the Kitchen

Food for Thought

Santa Barbara Middle School
Builds Community in the Kitchen

By Leslie Dinaberg | November 10, 2022

Providing healthy meals to students is just one part of the SBMS Community Kitchen. | Credit: Courtesy
Read all of the stories in our “Schools of Thought 2022” cover here.

The team at Santa Barbara Middle School has long had a vision of creating a true Community Kitchen that would be an industrial teaching kitchen to prepare school meals and provide cooking classes to students, as well as a place for community collaborations. 

Under the leadership of Pierre-Alexandre Tremblay (Chef PA) that vision has finally come to life. We caught up with Chef PA recently to get an update on the Community Kitchen project.

When we last spoke about this, the SBMS Community Kitchen was still in the visioning phase, but now you have an industrial kitchen on campus, right?  Yes. We launched our campaign to build this kitchen right before COVID. Then it hit, and obviously all our funding possibilities got swept right out underneath us. So we put the project on pause until the second year of COVID. And, just sort of out of a whim, we felt like it was the right time. So we reopened the campaign, and literally, in four months, finished raising the funds. … We opened it in November last year.

Credit: Courtesy

I’m assuming you feed the school from the kitchen.  That’s correct. We have our own lunch program, and to the benefit of being an independent school, we get to have a lot of fun on what that looks like. … What’s even better is that we have our nice garden at school. So now all the produce we grow goes straight into that lunch program. 

It isn’t just a production kitchen. There’s an entire teaching section where students can take electives, and they can also get plugged in through their academic courses, or our life skills program. 

How does that work?  An example would be, Human Geography might be studying South America, and they want to learn about that culture through the cuisine. So they’ll come into the kitchen and talk about native ingredients to that region. We will make tortillas by hand … maybe also make a classic Xocolatl hot chocolate beverage — something that the Aztecs and the Mayans would drink. So we give them something not just that they can hear about and see on a slideshow presentation, but taste and touch and do. 

What about the community kitchen part of the program?  Our earliest connections were with groups like the White Buffalo Foundation, starting with regenerative agriculture, and trying to get the kids into some dirt to know where most food starts. Connecting them to the land, and understanding just how hard it is. 

But it’s expanded, because now we also do projects with Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade, and we’ve done projects with the Organic Soup Kitchen. … Each organization kind of has their specialty, but we’ve plugged in with those organizations and brought the kids out to connect one step further. 

Credit: Courtesy

You mentioned working with Save Summerland Farms. What do they do?  They are working on growing food and making Summerland a more secure food environment. They actually come and use our kitchen once a week to process their non-GMO corn into tortillas and tortilla chips.

That’s very cool.  It’s ever growing the way the students use the kitchen. We have a little community action club here too. … They love to try to do some fundraising through the kitchen; they’ll come in and actually prepare baked goods and sell them for a specific cause that they believe in. … The kitchen has become a place for them to generate a little bit of income and get some foundation toward helping people in need.

What have been some of the surprises?  I’ve been surprised how much kids really do love to learn about things through food…. If you can use that passion as a lesson, they have fun, they learn something, they connect, they walk away. They’re not even thinking they learned something. They’re just like, “This was the coolest day ever.”


Credit: Courtesy
Read all of the stories in our “Schools of Thought 2022” cover here.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.