• A giant paper maché sweet potato with googly eyes carried in a parade
  • Sweet potato biscuits and muffins, handmade by K-8 students
  • While harvesting sweet potatoes, children find creatures who thrive in the habitat of the sweet potato vines: butterflies, frogs, legless lizards, and field mice

These are the kinds of joyful associations with local food made at our 7th Annual Sweet Potato Fest at Arthur Ashe Charter School, one of ESYNOLA’s biggest family events. 

Families, neighbors, and friends of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans enjoyed a parade, harvest, and fun activities all in the name of the sweet potato on Saturday, October 26, 2019. Together, they harvested 432 lbs of sweet potatoes from the school garden, and festers ingested or took home another 600 pounds of potatoes donated from the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission and Whole Foods Market Broad St.

The Ashe Aces Marching Unit led the Sweet Potato Fest parade around the neighborhood. In the Professional Sweet Potato Cook-off, Addis NOLA, Alligator Pear, Chef Alicia Scott, Chartwells, and Mosquito Supper Club served up innovative sweet potato dishes. In the Family Cook-off, a home chef’s African-inspired sweet potato greens took center stage. We had sweet potato smoothies, sack races by GirlTrek, hands-on activities by NOLA_CODE and the Crescent City Farmers Market, a West African dance performance, and so much more.

In a way, Sweet Potato Fest is all about sweet potatoes, but it’s about way more than that. 

Celebrating a crop like sweet potatoes helps children connect to the seasons, how food grows, and the natural world. It brings families into the garden to make their own connections with what’s growing and living there. It showcases local farmers and chefs, and it starts conversations about agricultural and culinary family traditions. It’s an excuse for healthy exercise in the outdoors, and it builds a strong school community through collaboration and service. But to be clear, Sweet Potato Fest is mostly about joy — the wholesome and simple joy of getting your hands in the dirt and dancing in the street.

Special thanks to volunteers from Dillard University, the groups Ordinary People and Minority Association of Pre-Health Students from Xavier University, and to all the individual volunteers who help make Sweet Potato Fest not only possible, but very special.