"It's just been crazy; it's just been a roller-coaster ride," said Steven Marinelli, food service director for the Milton Town School District.
Marinelli is not talking about the day's lunch; he's talking about the year Milton Elementary's food program has had, serving up healthier items that kids actually eat and landing a trip to help the first lady plant the White House kitchen garden last April. The invitation honored the school's efforts to not only feed kids better foods, but teach them about how they grow and why they're nutritious.
"It really planted that seed that we could do a lot more here. So, we went after some grants and we were lucky to get this grant," Marinelli said.
Now, Milton is closing the year with news it got a $91,000 federal farm-to-school grant-- the only school in Vermont to land it.
"I think we're proving we're having success in what we're doing," Marinelli said.
Fifth-grader Owen Waligory is part of the proof. He says he's eating more fruits and vegetables since the menus changed.
"I think this year and the past year-- way better than any other year," Owen said.
The grant will fund a full-time farm-to-school educator, helping to integrate food and nutrition into other courses like history and math.
"They do taste tests, they do cooking experiences," Marinelli said. "We're actually going to have two mobile carts throughout the school so kids can cook right in the classroom."
After the holidays he says they're setting up three hydroponic gardens in the cafeteria so kids can see veggies and herbs grow all year-round.
"In the past year, to see kids eating Brussels sprouts, eating asparagus and celeriac and kale chips-- you didn't expect that, and it's commonplace here," Marinelli said. "And that's great to see."
The grant will fund the educator next year. The district hopes to be able to fund that position through its own budget after that.
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