Thursday December 15, 2011
Eating local may be trendy and increasingly expected of us in the adult world, but when it comes to educating our kids about cooking and eating local food, many of our schools seemed to have been missing some enormously teachable moments. But lately the SB School District, along with others across the country, is recognizing that lessons about food and sustainable, healthy ways of living are as important to students’ future success as teaching long division and U.S. history. That’s the impetus behind Farm 2 Go, an innovative after-school cooking program now in its third season at F. H. Tuttle Middle School. Farm 2 Go—a collaboration between local nonprofit Common Roots, FHTMS, Healthy Living Market, and Rockville Market Farm—meets after school once a week to provide eight students a lesson in healthy cooking using seasonal, local foods. Ingredients, a chef/teacher, and some cooking supplies are generously donated by Healthy Living Market of SB, supplemented with fresh produce provided by Rockville Market Farm through Common Roots. The results provide students with an outlet to foster an appreciation and love of fresh, local foods. Dishes range from the adventurous (spicy chipotle chicken, couscous-stuffed squash) to traditional (roasted Delicata squash with butter and raw honey, carrot raisin salad). All take place in the Family and Consumer Sciences kitchen classroom with the blessing of teacher Mary Lou Wasko.
Most students admit that prior to taking part in this project they “just kind of liked vegetables,” but now, they profess, they love them. All claim to have given every single recipe they’ve cooked a try, “even the kale!”
The lessons don’t stop with the students, either. Each week, after cooking and cleaning up, the students pack that night’s meal—from main dish to sides and dessert—in reusable containers to bring home and share with their families. More than just providing food, the students are able to give their families new recipes, helpful cooking hints like how to keep from crying when you slice an onion, and stories of recipes gone awry with soup splattering all over the kitchen.
The students are undoubtedly learning cooking fundamentals, but more importantly they are having fun and interacting with each other, while learning valuable life skills. Each student involved said that they’re making dinner for their families more often, and are more likely to help out around the kitchen. Many even said they regularly make breakfast in bed for their parents.
Teachers with a Vision
This innovative program would be impossible without the young woman who runs it, offering a unique perspective and reason for being involved in this groundbreaking class. In charge of the program since its founding is Common Roots food educator Kaitlyn Elias, a Champlain College graduate with a degree in elementary education. Her main goal is that her students take away the ability to “take charge of their own nutrition, expand their palates, and simply enjoy the process of cooking.”
All about the Kids
Everything in this class, as it should, relates back to the kids. This was obvious at the program’s culmination dinner in early November, which brought the families to the food rather than the food to the families. After the students prepared the meal, their families arrived and were able to not only eat the food prepared by their loved ones but also interact with other parents, food educators, and most importantly each other. After eating together as a group the students were presented with cooking utensils as graduation gifts, along with a booklet containing all the recipes from throughout the course.
This session was just the first of six throughout the school year. “Some of the participants have returned for second and third sessions,” says Elias. “In this time, some have become more passionate about cooking for and with their families. They’ve become the teachers, with the ability to influence their family, siblings, and friends.
“In my opinion,” she adds, “the learning doesn’t stop after they leave the kitchen.”
Submitted by Ally Gravina, a student in Joyce Hendley’s service learning UVM class “Strategic Writing” and a supporter of Common Roots.