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Parents Get Active in Farm to School

beth-circle-headBy Beth Heller

We’re really excited to share that this week at Notre Dame School of De Pere, “fourth grade moms” Jodi Danen and Courtney Starry taught their first Farm to School classroom lesson!  Jodi and Courtney found their way in front of the class after becoming engaged in a parent committee dedicated to improving the hot lunch program.  Out of this committee came the idea of introducing Farm to School lessons into the classroom, and Notre Dame’s Principal Gregory Balza, jumped on board.  

f2s blog pic

The first lesson put Jodi, who is a Registered Dietitian, and Courtney, a healthy-food advocate, in front of a class of fourth graders, where each has a child.  This month’s lesson focused on recycling and garbage, and encouraged the kids to think not only about what is on their lunch tray, but the packaging around it.  After learning about compostable, recyclable and non-recyclable materials, the students collaborated on a thought problem.  

“I enjoyed seeing what the children came up with when they were assigned a keyword and were asked to form a hypothesis based on different growing conditions,” said Jodi.  “I hope they learned that their actions with waste can affect their local food sources.”

Once finished with the lesson and group discussion, the kids participated in a “polite bite,” our name for a taste-test of locally-sourced produce, which in this case was a locally sourced Cortland apple vs. a grocery-sourced Red Delicious apple.    

Bringing parent volunteers into the classroom as Farm to School educators is another strategy for making Farm to School part of the school day.  Parents care deeply about the food on their kids lunch trays and, perhaps even more than that, the culture around eating at their kids’ school.  Research shows that Farm to School programming can impact the “demand side” of the healthy lunch equation, with research showing that learning about where their food comes from, who grows it and actually trying local produce,  increases kids’ willingness to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.

The GRACE School System, which is a system of parochial schools in the Green Bay area, had participated in the Live54218  Farm to School task force since 2014.  Jamie Hurley, GRACE’s Food Service Director, participates in meetings and events, and joined in last Fall’s Bulk Processing Event, where local schools combined purchasing power to source, prep and store almost 3000 pounds of local produce.  

Jodi and Courtney will be teaching six Farm to School lessons over the course of the year, one each month until April.  In addition, the students in their class will be taking a field trip to a local farm to see first hand that farming is an essential part of the local community.

After reading all this you probably have the same question we did. Which apple did they like better?

“There were more on the side of the Cortland, but Red Delicious got a good amount of votes, too,” Jodi revealed.

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