Photos courtesy of Annemarie Galvin
Hundreds of children at Scituate’s Jenkins Elementary School participated in National Food Day on Wednesday, eating healthy, local food for lunch that they had grown.
Started two years ago, Food Day is based on a nationwide grassroots campaign focused on getting locals to make smarter food choices by selecting locally grown produce over processed foods.
While this was only Jenkins’ first year participating in the program, growing produce and healthy eating have been a long-time initiative for the school community.
“I coordinate with the Garden Program and work with Holly Hill farm for instruction in our school,” said Annmarie Galvin, the Parent Coordinator for Jenkins School Garden. “We’ve done a harvest lunch every fall, and that’s grown. The last two years we’ve done fall and spring and last year we did home made pizza with the first graders, so we have experience working with Jenkins and fresh food.”
According to Galvin, Susan Aguilar, Jenkins School Cafeteria Manager, initially had the idea to incorporate Jenkin’s garden with the national celebration, rather than just doing a ‘Harvest lunch’.
After some coordination, organizers decided on a “rainbow garden”, adding in fresh produce from the Jenkins garden with some from Holly Hill farm to create fresh tomatillo salsa, kale and white bean soup, an herb vinaigrette and raspberry vinaigrette for the side salad.
Locally grown tomatoes were used for pasta sauce. Even the soup was made by children in an after-school club on Friday.
Locally grown garlic, planted in the Jenkins garden last winter and picked and drying since July, was used to make garlic bread as well.
The result was a ten parent volunteers force helping prepare the food and handing out the food to 600 students in approximately two hours on Wednesday. The event was massively successful, Galvin said.
“More than half of the school tried a new fruit or vegetable,” Galvin said, according to a poll the students took after lunch. “Probably close to 70 percent - that’s crazy!”
Galvin, a parent of four children herself, suspected that the reason most of the children tried the foods was because they had helped grow it all year long, and had seen the growing process through the school’s relationship with Holly Hill Farm.
“The real reason they are trying it is because it’s not creepy and scary, it’s a pretty little green leaf they watched grow. They are trying new things, seeing where food comes from. It all comes from a farm. It’s a wonderful connection,” she said.
Galvin credited Aguilar with letting the parents come in and help with the initiative, something that wouldn’t be possible without Aguilar’s open-mindedness and passion for healthy food.
Jonny Belber, Education Director at Holly Hill Farm, was thrilled that the day was such a success, especially after the work the students have done all year long planting and watering their produce.
Yet the initiative goes just beyond Food Day for Belber.
“Now we have a garden at every elementary school in Scituate and at the middle school, which is a garden for a food pantry,” Belber said. “Kids are able to put together that this group, either at the farm or outside their school windows, [grew this]. It makes them aware of where food comes from, and how connected they can be to where their food comes from.”
Having a garden at the schools also makes the idea of locally grown produce ever present, rather than it just being a field trip once or twice a year.
Yet the initiative isn’t just added on to the student’s school day, but is also incorporated into the school curriculum.
“I work with a teacher, farmer, and one volunteer to plan outings for each class. We’re adding other components…and tied everything to the mass science framework,” she said. “We’re mimicking or working with what the students are learning in the classrooms. It’s literally an outdoor classroom.”
For more information on Food Day, click here.