On September 26, The Ecology Center proudly unveiled The Food Shed, an interactive exhibit funded by a $65,000 grant from the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. The Food Shed presents a hands-on experience wherein visitors can learn about local and seasonal ingredients, food miles, energy consumption in food production, and more. The Taco Hunt, a secondary exhibition component, is a school-based activity that highlights Chipotle’s Food With Integrity philosophy.
The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation is committed to creating a more sustainable and healthful food supply and raising awareness of food issues, especially among grade-school children. The Ecology Center is thrilled to carry out the foundation’s goals on a local level, by serving as a direct connection to engage the community.
“We are always looking to support organizations that are helping to build a better food future,” said Chris Arnold, secretary of the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. “The Ecology Center really embodies some of our core beliefs, engaging children in a way that makes learning about food fun and rewarding, and we are thrilled that our support of their Food Shed program has helped to make this resource a reality.”
“Partnering with Chipotle is an obvious fit for The Ecology Center,” said Evan Marks, executive director of The Ecology Center. “Together we share a deep commitment to transforming our relationship to food. Our vehicle is hands-on learning and lasting experiences, theirs is the unwavering integrity of their supply chain. The Food Shed embodies the shared ethos, an interactive exploration of what makes an ecological taco.”
The Taco Hunt mirrors Chipotle’s Food With Integrity ethos and commitment to cooking with naturally raised meats, whole, unprocessed foods, and dedication to sourcing local produce as much as possible. The scavenger hunt enables visitors to learn about local and seasonal produce by finding ingredients located throughout The Ecology Center’s garden.
To demonstrate distance and food miles, local ingredients can be found adjacent to The Food Shed, and off-season, and non-local ingredients are located further afield. Other interactive Food Shed elements include a “What’s in Your Tortilla?” display, a hand crank used to physically represent energy input for processed food production, and dials that can be turned to show food miles, diversity of ingredients, and seasonality.
The Food Shed will be open to all visitors of The Ecology Center as well for school groups and guided tours. The center coordinates with local Orange County schools—such as San Juan Elementary, Kinoshita Elementary, Malcom Elementary, and Shorecliffs Middle School—to organize field trips. Kids are treated to hands-on learning, which lets them get dirty planting their own gardens and learning by doing with exhibits such as The Food Shed.