Food Educator Stephanie Cesario with the Farm to School Program cleans up after a cafeteria taste test.

Farm to School: Students learn to “Eat More Kale”

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Thursday January 30, 2014

Parents might be surprised to hear what their kids say about vegetables like kale, turnips, and beets at school; but take it from Stephanie Cesario, food educator with the Farm to School program,  the reviews are positive. “The kids will try anything,” says Cesario. “It’s all about the presentation and creating excitement over the food.”  

This month, Rick Marcotte Central School students will get their hands on kale, creating their own kale salads in the classroom. 

Taste tests are the culmination of 45-minute food lessons provided by the Farm to School program in every K-5 classroom in the South Burlington school district. The lessons aim to educate and engage students in the local food system by giving them hands-on opportunities to grow, harvest, and prepare foods while learning about the foods’ biological and nutritional characteristics. Programs at the middle school and high school become more in-depth and academic, but at the elementary level — Cesario’s beat — the purpose is primarily sensory. 

“I never knew that beets could be yellow inside!” exclaimed Rick Marcotte Central School kindergartener Luke Albers. “When we mixed them with extra ingredients, they were so good, I had seconds!”Farm to School is provided by Common Roots, a South Burlington based nonprofit funded by grants and individual donations. Carol McQuillen is Board Chair and one of the Founders. Through partnerships with schools, farmers, and community (they manage the South Burlington Farmers Market, her goal is nothing short of changing the culture around food. She hopes to get children eating fresher foods at school while learning how to have a smaller ecological footprint and a greater impact on their community.  

These principles are reinforced in the most surprising of places—school cafeterias. Rhonda Ketner, the new director of nutritional services, has ambitious plans to reduce highly processed foods from the lunch line in favor of fresher entrees.  While it sounds expensive, Ketner is skilled at “food costing”, and says the equation works out. “A case of canned pears might cost $36,” says Ketner. “After draining and portioning it into ½ cup servings, it yields 50 servings. A case of fresh pears costs a bit more, but can be sliced into 150 servings. If you use food costing and averaging, you can often use fresher, more locally-sourced products and actually save money.  

Lily Hankes, RMCS third grader appreciates the effort. “I love Farm to School.  It’s fun to learn about vegetables I’ve never tried before. Last year I tried garlic--it was spicy! My friend ate the whole clove and had to drink like eight glasses of water!  I’m really glad our school cares about us eating healthy foods.”

Please join us for our next PTO meeting on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Art Room at Rick Marcotte Central School.

SOURCE: Michelle Rosowsky, RMCS PTO