During Harvest Lunch Week, schools statewide are encouraged to incorporate Maine-made ingredients into their lunch menus. But at the Brooklin School in Hancock County, Harvest Lunch Week is nothing out of the ordinary – cook Lori Boyce serves local food every day of the year.
Instead of consuming instant mashed potatoes or from-the-box desserts, Brooklin students eat potatoes they dug up in the school’s garden and pumpkin bars baked with gourds they grew themselves.
Boyce makes nearly all her food from scratch, which is difficult yet feasible at a K-8 elementary with a 46-student enrollment for 2012-13.
In Brooklin, a small, oceanside town, the school’s size makes it more of a community – and everyone pitches in to help Boyce manage her one-woman kitchen. Students in grades four through eight rotate daily to serve meals and wash dishes for two separate lunch periods.
“They’ve all known me since they were little,” said Boyce, who has worked at the school for 22 years, “and every kid in this school can run everything in the kitchen.”
The cafeteria’s entire operation, from ingredients to clean-up, is a team effort, often involving townspeople.
Employees of the Brooklin Youth Corps, an organization that provides working-age teenagers with paid job opportunities in the area, tend the garden over the summer. But in the fall, Boyce, her students and all the school’s staff resume responsibility of the large garden.
“Some kids have never been in a garden before,” Boyce said. “They love it. Digging potatoes—it’s like they’re digging for gold!”
Parents appreciate the organic, homemade cooking Boyce provides for their children, but it is clear upon entering the cafeteria that Boyce’s students are her biggest fans.
“Lori makes some of the best hamburgers ever,” said fourth grader Adam Mathewson. “But we can’t get seconds, which is annoying.”
Last year Mathewson joined the Make a Difference club to clean-up the school’s two greenhouses, which supply the kitchen with lettuce, spinach and tomatoes, among other vegetables.
Most Brooklin students buy Boyce’s lunch rather than pack their own. The organic, locally grown food is hard to pass up, and many Brooklin residents agree. Students sell the garden’s produce at the Brooklin Farmers’ Market, giving everyone in the community a chance to taste the school’s veggies. The farmers’ market has the additional benefit of letting students practice money management, and all proceeds go back into funding the school’s garden.
The school will celebrate its 10th annual Brooklin-Grown Day Thursday, Oct. 4, with Brooklin-raised pork as its main course. Boyce hopes to use only ingredients that have been grown within the town’s limits.
“I’ve been doing Brooklin-Grown Day since long before they started Harvest Lunch Week,” said Boyce. “And I can do it in Brooklin because we have so many organic growers.”