Farm-to-School program continues growth - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Farm-to-School program continues growth

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It's lunch time for the kids at the Lowell Graded School.  But this is a meal with a twist, because the students in this school helped grow some of the food the cafeteria uses.  It is part of the Green Mountain Farm-to-School Program.  A non-profit that works with schools throughout the Northeast Kingdom.

"I am the coordinator for Lowell and I work with directly with schools to encourage farm curriculum, garden based curriculum and get local food into the dining hall and to create and maintain a school garden that will hopefully source to the cafeteria directly," said Karina French, the GMFS coordinator.

But it doesn't end there -- this program runs year round. "There are lots of aspects to what we do with schools including farm field trips, workshops cooking lessons, after school programs -- depending on what the school is interested in and what we are able to do," French said. Funding for the program comes through a combination of grant money, individual donors and participating schools.

Principal Anita Willey Gagner says among other things, the program encourages the students to try something new. "It has empowered the kids to try new foods rather than veggies and fruits out of a can. They are allowed the experience to have something that they have been able to put in the ground themselves, and kids who would not ever look at a broccoli stalk will now look at the tree that they grew, that's what we call it," she said.

And this being fall, it's time to harvest what has been grown in the garden this year.  Seventh graders, like Wes Swanson, are encouraged to taste the dill. "I learned that they taste pretty minty," he said. Swanson also helped harvest corn and Zucchini. "I think it is pretty cool that the school can do that kind of stuff -- fresh vegetables, pretty cheap and stuff," he said.
Another big harvest -- kale. "That we get to have it in the salad bar and that we get to eat it," said 7th grader Gabby Cota.  But Cota says her favorites are corn and potatoes.

According to school cook, Debbie Merrill, kale chips are a big hit. "They love it if you bake it and put a little salt on it -- they love kale chips," she said.

And that is the goal of the Farm to school program. "If they are used to gardening, used to seeing food grow, they are going to understand more where their food comes from and hopefully that will continue for the rest of their lives," French said.  "They will be more connected to where their food is coming from and buy local."

And realize the teamwork it takes to harvest a successful crop.

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