October was National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the connections happening all over the country between children and local food. Schools, early childhood providers, farms, communities, and organizations all across the country hosted taste tests in the cafeteria, nutrition education activities in the classroom or in child care or preschool programs, farm visits, and school garden harvest parties.
In Vermont, nearly 4 in 5 schools have some Farm to School integration. 62% purchase over 10% of their food from local sources, and 65% of schools are connected to a local farmer or farm. Here is just a glimpse of a few ways the state celebrated Farm to School Month:
Harwood Union High School
Harwood Union High School celebrated Farm to School Month with a Harvest Luncheon! Superintendent Nease, VT Secretary of Education Dan French and School Board members attended the event to support the school’s Farm to School initiative. The meal included Hamburgers made from local beef prepared by students alongside school chefs.
Milton Schools celebrated Farm to School Month throughout October with apple and pumpkin taste tests in the cafeterias. First graders brought the learning back to the classroom by making their own pumpkin bread and pies and surveying the class on their preferences. Farmer Rowley from Rowley Brothers Dairy visited the school to speak about dairy farming, and the Milton Town School District Food Service served up a free dinner, open to the entire Milton community, with healthy dishes like chicken and biscuits, whipped squash, and apple crisp.
Crossett Brook Middle School
Crossett Brook Middle School celebrated Farm to School Month with a locally sourced breakfast with the Acting USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps, representatives from Northeast USDA, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, and U.S. Congressman Peter Welch. With the help of the school’s Jr Iron Chef VT team and other excited students and faculty, the group heard about the success of Breakfast in the Classroom and visited the school’s chicken coop and greenhouse. Read more about Brandon Lipps’s experience at Crossett Brook Middle School and Burlington High School on the USDA’s blog.
Berlin Elementary School
Berlin Elementary School hosted a press event to showcase the impact of Farm to School efforts throughout the State of Vermont. Speakers included Principal Aaron Boynton; Farmer Misse Axelrod; Betsy Rosenbluth on behalf of the Vermont Farm to School Network; Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts; and Pollaidh Major, representing U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. The day included a tour of the school’s garden and a local foods lunch in the cafeteria.
The Vermont Farm to School Network’s Windham County Regional Gathering with Food Connects
25 attendees representing food service, education, and administration from schools across the county joined for an evening of inspiring stories, networking, and delicious local food at Retreat Farm. Ali West, Food Service Director for the Brattleboro Town Schools, shared her passion for making sure all children are well nourished and that no student is stigmatized due to his or her family’s socio-economic status. She highlighted her successes with universal meals, share coolers, and Breakfast After the Bell programs in the Brattleboro Town Schools. Shane Rogers, Project Manager for Rooted in Vermont, talked about his efforts to bring the local food movement to more Vermonters with the #rootedinvermont social media campaign. Wayne Kermenski and Jeanne Bruffee inspired us by telling the story of Hawlemont Regional Elementary School in Charlemont, MA, which, when faced by the challenge of declining enrollment, reinvented itself as a project-based learning institution with a focus on agriculture. Read the full recap of the event on Food Connect’s Blog.
Bennington County Head Start Program
Bennington County Head Start celebrated Farm to School Month with some of Vermont’s youngest students! They took a field trip to Ioka Farm, had a taste comparison of sweet potatoes (Vermont’s October Harvest of the Month) and russet potatoes, and cooked zucchini muffins made with Cabot cheese and King Arthur flour!