Food serves as a major aspect of life at SVS. Of course, everyone in the world loves food; however, here it takes on a life of its own.
The minute students arrive, they are eating or talking about food. Trading and sharing food items are a daily event in the community. Students will curiously look inside their lunchbox, and then ask their friends, “What do you have,” which inevitably causes bartering! As an outsider looking in at this process, I’m sometimes confused by the exchanges. For example, a young girl traded a bag of goldfish and a container of grapes for one package of seaweed paper. I asked, “Aren’t you going to be hungry with only seaweed to eat?” She looked at me as if it were the dumbest question she has ever heard and replied, “I love seaweed! And we share everything anyways!” This made both of the parties involved in the trade erupt in great belly laughs. She couldn't be more right. Students love to share their food here. The other day, I watched a student divide his bag of chips in two. Using great caution to ensure he didn’t break any, he gave one chip at a time to his friend and one to himself until the chips were divided and they each had equal sized piles.
Concession is another popular time here. Two elected students are given the opportunity to sell prepackaged food. They then run their concession as a private business, which gives a percentage of the sales to the school as “rent” for the use of the space. About ten minutes before 12:00, the concessionaires start to bring the food up from the storage area. Everyone gets so excited! This is the time the school literally starts to buzz, and chatter about what each person will buy is heard throughout the campus. The food covers the table in the main lounge creating mountains of chips, candy, and frozen lunches. The students come rushing in to buy goods. If a student doesn't understand the concept of money’s worth, they quickly learn! Students will ask, “What can I buy with this?”, holding out a dollar or a handful of change. A student or staff member with more knowledge about the value of a dollar will patiently point out the items he/she can afford with the amount they have. After this very important decision is made, the exchange of money and goods is made, leaving the customer and business associates happy!
People can view these things as silly child’s play. Observing them first hand, it is everything but; in fact, it is quite serious! Students are learning accounting and math, organization, and interpersonal skills. Because of the communication occurring between people of all different ages, these students have the wonderful ability to learn these necessary qualities while they are still extremely young.