Kids in the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s summer care program learned about their food’s roots this summer.
Adventure Plus implemented a Farm to School program that let kids explore locally grown produce, experiment with recipes and try new produce at locations across the district.
“We wanted our young students to see where their food actually came from,” SHIP Coordinator Jennifer Gilbert said. “So many times they just get a bag of baby carrots and they don’t know what they actually look like.”
Each school site received $400 as part of a $9,900 Hennepin County SHIP grant to pay for supplies to prepare and serve various produce, Gilbert said.
Kids at Jackson, Northdale and Oakview middle schools and 14 elementary schools including Ramsey and Eisenhower were able to experiment with different foods, like making salsa or guacamole. At Dayton Elementary kids made “cooler corn” in which they cooked corn on the cob by pouring boiling water into a cooler with the corn and letting it sit 30 minutes.
“It may seem like no big deal, but these kids really loved it,” Gilbert said. “They loved shucking the corn. A lot of kids have never even shucked corn before, and they loved being a part of it.”
The sites had committees of older kids who were tasked with preparing the food, but at locations like Dayton the program was so successful they had to find work for the younger kids to help prepare the produce, according to Dayton site coordinator Colleen Godfrey.
Other activities included performing the classic stone soup play, in which strangers convince villagers suffering from lack of food to share a small amount of their own food for a soup made with a stone that can produce enough for everyone. Parents were invited to the play, and afterward everyone could have a bowl of soup.
Each site also took a field trip to a farm to see where food is actually grown.
Kids at the Dayton site went to Gale Woods Farm near Minnetrista, where they were able to sample produce right out of the garden.
“I picked that one because they do have a garden there and I’ve been there before, and they always let the kids walk through the farm, and they actually pick things right out of the garden that kids get to try,” Godfrey said.
This time they tried “sour cucumbers,” she said.
Farm to School is a Minnesota Department of Health program that encourages schools to source food from local growers. The program has so far been shown to increase students’ fruit and vegetable consumption, reduce screen time, increase knowledge about where food comes from and improve grades and test scores, according to the Department of Health.
School systems have been shown to benefit as well, with reduced meal costs, increased offerings of produce in the cafeteria and a 9% average increase of student participation in meal programs.
Farmers aren’t left out either, with an average 5% income boost, according to Department of Health documents. Each dollar invested in a Farm to School program can generate between $0.60 to $2.16 in local economic activity, according to the documents.
The idea behind implementing Farm to School at Anoka-Hennepin was to help combat what Gilbert said was a growing dissociation from the origins of the food we eat. It also helped teach kids one or two recipes that included vegetables they could bring home to their families.
“We live in such a fast-paced world that much of the food we eat is ready to go or premade or fast food or restaurant food that we found that young kids, especially as they get older and they go home after school by themselves, they don’t know how to make real food, fresh food,” Gilbert said.
For more information visit the Department of Health Farm to School page at: bit.Ly/31TODy3.