Maine Baked Fish Vera Cruz, meatloaf made with locally raised beef and school garden grown rainbow carrots were “on the menu” for schools across Maine who celebrated Maine Harvest Lunch Week. Each year this Maine DOE sponsored event designates one week in September to educate students on where their food comes from by serving up Maine grown foods on the menu and promoting Farm to School in the wider school community. This year the celebrations took place the week of September 18-22, 2017, and while most schools participate on the selected week, other schools chose to highlight Maine grown foods on a week of their choice.
Events from southern to coastal Maine took place with a different Farm to School focus. At RSU 21, the focus was on getting students in the kitchen and serving up some local Maine fare. Kindergarten students at Kennebunkport Consolidated School got some hands-on experience shucking local corn and preparing fresh Maine kale in the school kitchen. At Kennebunk High School a delicious local lunch featured fish, broccoli and corn on the cob. Middle school offerings included slider sloppy Joe’s made with local beef and oven baked local red potatoes.
At Trenton Elementary School, their Food Corps Service member worked with the school nutrition program to incorporate produce from their own school garden and greenhouse into school meals. Second graders got their hands dirty harvesting rainbow carrots, which were offered on the lunchtime salad bar. Sixth graders used their muscles to harvest 55 pounds of zucchini, which was used to make fresh, homemade zucchini muffins! A “harvest of the month” taste test also took place where the entire school sampled school greenhouse grown spaghetti squash with a side of marinara sauce, yum yum! A Maine map of farms who contributed local produce during the week was displayed in the cafeteria to connect students to where their food came from. Food Corps service member, Nicole Gurreri, remarks “Harvest Lunch Week has been a perfect kick off to a year of farm to school activities!”. The school plans on harvesting spinach, kale, Chinese cabbage and other crops from their school greenhouse throughout the winter months.
RSU 3, based out of Unity, planned a week of harvest lunches district wide but also wanted to involve parents and community members in their Harvest Day Celebration. Hundreds of family
members joined their elementary students for a harvest lunch meal at the Mt. View Complex in Thorndike. The menu featured meatloaf made with local beef raised in pastures across the street from the Mt. View school campus, as well as local red potatoes, apples, and Maine wild blueberry crisp. You can’t get more local than that! The cafeteria featured harvest décor, including posters and other decorations proudly made by Mt. View Elementary students.
Maine Harvest Lunch Week is celebrated district-wide at RSU 17 each year; however this year a new resource was introduced to encourage families to
eat local foods well beyond the one week celebration. The “Western Foothills Harvest Map” shows a map of the surrounding area featuring farms and markets where parents and students can visit and experience local food. Members from Healthy Oxford Hills introduced the map in classrooms while using the “Maine Foods for Maine Kids” curriculum. This partnership between Healthy Oxford Hills and RSU 17 resulted in creating the harvest map for families to use. They hope that parents and students will discover, explore, learn, meet and eat fresh local foods from farms and markets in the community. A link to the harvest map can be found here.
Maine Harvest Lunch Week is a celebration of local foods that many school districts across Maine take part in. Although it is only designated one week out of the school year, it is a jump start for more Farm to School activities to take place throughout the year. For more information on Maine Harvest Lunch Week please contact Stephanie Stambach, Child Nutrition Consultant at the Maine DOE at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6732.