This article was written by Maine student Joe McNerney.
Hands were washed and chef hats were on as fourth and fifth grade students entered the cafeteria. In the middle of many tables, freshly grown carrots were set and ready to be used. This is what the scene looked like on Monday, November 4 at Manchester School. In a recent press release, it was announced that the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry and the Maine Department of Education teamed up with the Manchester School to promote the growing farm-to-school movement in Maine.
“The students participated in a day of activities to celebrate growing, harvesting and eating local food. The event was designed to raise awareness about the importance of local food, school gardens and the relationship schools are developing with local farms to provide fresh, quality fruits, vegetables and produce to Maine schools,” stated the press release.
Stacey Sanborn, fourth grade teacher, explained how the food is grown by the students. “We tend to the hoop house all school year,” she said. “Students help maintain and pick vegetables and sometimes we are able to send the food home that has been produced by the student for students in need.”
Briefly, a hoop house is a form of greenhouse that consist of a series of large hoops or bows—made of metal, plastic pipe or wood covered by heavy plastic. It is heated by the sun and cooled by the wind. Although winter is coming, and some students may be less than thrilled to trudge through snow, they will none the less keep up on the hoop house.
Ryan Roderick, head chef and nutrition coordinator for and Jeanne Reilly, director of school nutrition,
led the educational sessions with the students. During the class, students from fourth and fifth grades made fresh curried carrot soup and carrot muffins.
Students had the opportunity to wash, peel, chop carrots and onions as well as sauté the vegetables. For the muffins, students grated carrots, measured and mixed the ingredients and portioned them into muffin cups. At the end of the class, students and teachers all were able to try the soup and muffins made with carrots from their school garden and fully experience what the farm-to-school experience is all about.
“It was refreshing to see young faces so excited about cooking,” stated Pam Lanz who had worked with the school for 21 years as a guidance counselor prior to taking up her post as garden leader. “Many of the students are hesitant to try most of the vegetables. However, when peers try, they are more likely to give it a chance.”
Once the ingredients were ready, some students prepared muffins while the others prepared the carrot curry soup. Which was garnished with Greek yogurt and chives.
Students all agreed and said with pride after eating the food they had prepared, “The food tasted better because we cooked it.”
Teaching kids at a young age that there is value to growing and making your own food is outstanding. It teaches the art of horticulture and self-sustainability. “Many of our students tale home what they learn,” Sanborn said. “They share it with parents and hopefully they in turn will start gardening more.”
Lanz quickly agreed, “We want to make backyard farmers out of them all.”
The Manchester School is one of the more than 400 Maine schools that participate in a farm-to-school program. The event was designed to raise awareness about the importance of local food, school gardens and the relationship schools are developing with local farms to provide fresh, quality fruits, vegetables and produce to Maine schools.