Are you ready to #serveupchange in your community? Apply now for a year of service with FoodCorps Connecticut! The deadline is March 15, but aim to submit early: we’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis. Go to http://foodcorps.org/apply to apply yourself (or share this post with a leader who shares our passion for healthy food in schools!)
The First HardCORE CT Apple Challenge with Put Local On Your Tray!
October is special for a few reasons. Everyone is getting back in the swing of things at school, the foliage outstanding, and the many varieties of delicious crisp apples are ripening atop trees in orchards across the state. The combination makes a perfect time of year to celebrate National Farm to School Month, CT Grown for CT Kids Week, and a new campaign known as the HardCORE CT Apple Challenge coordinated by Put Local On Your Tray to celebrate CT grown products, and continuously encourage the importance and connectivity of food education. Put Local on Your Tray is a collaborative Farm to School project that assists interested Connecticut school districts to serve, educate, and celebrate regionally grown produce.
The campaign coordinated by Put Local On Your Tray was made public to anyone who wanted to participate and utilize the resources. All schools and school districts in Connecticut were encouraged to participate by sourcing local apples during the month of October, and placing signage so students and staff know where they came from. For students to take the challenge, there were three ways to participate. First, you could eat a CT Grown apple all the way down to it’s core. Second, you could try two different types of CT Grown apples and compare tastes. Third, you could take a trip to a local apple orchard to see how they really grow. Or even better, all three!
On the ground, with reports from our partners at FoodCorps Connecticut, there were so many different ways CT kids celebrated the HardCORE CT Apple Challenge. There was New Britain’s Gaffney Elementary Garden Club students challenging each other to see who could eat a local apple from Belltown Orchards in South Glastonbury totally down to the core, after learning all about the importance of seeds. At Meriden public schools, students enjoyed a special afternoon comparing the tastes of Fuji and Paula Red apples and voted at lunch what they liked best, realizing that not all apples are exactly the same. There was a field trip taken to Auerfarm in Bloomfield with Breakthrough Magnet School in Hartford, where students had the opportunity to pick and taste some of the apples grown right there on the farm, solidifying their understanding of how exactly apples come to be. Overall, there is a newfound appreciation going around in our schools for an idyllic CT crop – the apple.
There was lots of support from many partner organizations including the Connecticut Farm to School Collaborative, who helped create the concept of the campaign. The Collaborative consists of a group of nonprofit and state-agency representatives working to advance farm to school at the state level through policy, communications, and programming. The CT Apple Marketing Board, the USDA, and FoodCorps Connecticut all promoted the HardCORE Apple Campaign, with the promotion excitingly gaining national recognition in the USDA online newsletter, The Dirt, as something to look check out for the month of October.
Mike Koch, Food Service Director for New Britain Public Schools, is pleased to have the materials provided by the Local Tray Program. “We appreciate the efforts of the various groups that assist us with marketing and promotions of our locally sourced products. UConn Extension and FoodCorps have been integral partners to promote activities such as taste tests and local produce celebrations. We have been able to get students to try and appreciate new and different foods, and to step outside of their comfort zone. When we did an applesauce taste test using apples grown from Belltown Orchards in Glastonbury, the students began to realize this is food grown close to their neighborhood. When they make this connection, everyone wins; the student, the food service department, the school district, and the farm.”
Mike is just one of the Food Service Directors who has signed up to take the local pledge for his district this year. There are currently 30 districts that signed up so far to participate in the Put Local on Your Tray Program for the 2017-18 school year all over the state. The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school. Go online to sign up to take the pledge to have at least one local Tray day this year. Sign up today if your school hasn’t already! We are gaining momentum and have many developments in store for this year, including two new poster designs to be released online soon! For more information after this date, please contact email@example.com.
To stay informed with what is happening with the Tray project yourself, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can also Like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @putlocalonyourtray. For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 860-870-6932. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).
Keep on crunching, Connecticut!
Our FoodCorps Connecticut service members are making a large impact across the state!
Since September 1st:
The 15 superstar service members have interacted with 6257 students!
They have harvested 355.25 lbs of produce from school or community gardens!
They have worked with 545 volunteers!
CT Service members have also worked with 40 farmers!
What amazing numbers!!!!
By Catherine Hallisey
As I was kneeling by a raised garden bed, planting snap peas with a couple of students, I heard a third grader scream “NOOOOOO!” from the other side of the garden. An array of thoughts immediately sped through my mind in the split second it took me to get over to her section of the garden—
“Is she hurt?”
“Did someone pull a kale plant thinking it was a weed?”
“Did she accidentally pour the watering can on herself instead of our radishes?”
It turned out none of the above scenarios were what caused a quiet eight year old to yell out in fright. When I reached her side, she had a small trowel in one hand, and a half of an earthworm in the other. The rest of the earthworm, I presume, was somewhere left in the soil of the garden bed she had been weeding in.
This girl was absolutely heart broken that she had killed a worm. Obviously, I too was a little upset- here I had a distraught girl in the garden, and, a dead worm. However, I was also proud. I was proud because this student had taken to heart our number one garden rule “respect all living things” — fellow classmates, beautiful sunflowers, tasty strawberries, slimy worms, scary beetles, buzzing bees, and much, much more. She knew that worms were good for our soil, and therefore our plants, and was disappointed that she had killed a beneficial creature. I consoled her by explaining there were a lot of worms in our garden, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. She decided to be more careful in the future, and then gathered the rest of the group to give the worm a proper burial in the compost bin.
By Catherine Hallisey
FoodCorps Connecticut Service Member
“WHO IS READY TO GUAC AND ROLL?!”
Unfortunately, my quirky pun did not elicit the response I had hoped for— instead students started groaning, “ewww that’s green” and “where’s the ranch?!” even “I am not touching that!”
Although these comments seem harsh, I was unfazed, for they are not out of the ordinary; in fact, I hear remarks like this on a near daily basis as a FoodCorps service member with the Tolland County Extension Center in Vernon. I am constantly cooking with kids, mostly elementary school students; trying to introduce fresh, healthy foods into their diets. This almost always means having to deal with the one, or two, or even twenty children who are hesitant to try something new.
And oh boy was guacamole a new one. To the after school 4-H club, the avocado I was holding looked like some kind of cross between a snake and a dinosaur egg, and they did not want to touch it. My little cooks were being especially challenging today, it seemed. After the group gathered the nerve to mash up the avocado with some tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and spices, we moved on to cutting veggies, and I started brainstorming how to get these students to just taste a little bit of our wonderful creation.
As I sat chopping carrots with a few especially obstinate fifth graders, I started explaining how nutritious an avocado was …more potassium than a banana, special fats that are good for your heart, fiber that keeps you full, etc. etc. They listened and nodded their heads, but were not persuaded to try the dip that looked different than anything they had ever seen before.
I racked my brain for a new plan, something fun, something unexpected. Then it dawned on me- food art! In what other setting would these students be able to play with their food? I took our giant bowl of guacamole, and started to spread it evenly on plates. I gave each student a plate and various types of cut veggies and let them go wild. Trees, flowers, smiley faces, abstract designs– you name it, and they made it. It was messy, it was chaotic, and it was a success. After all the effort each child put into creating their masterpiece, were they just going to let it go to waste? No! They were going to eat it- and soo
n enough, the “ewws” turned into “yums” and the “I’m not touching that” turned into “it’s not thattttt baddddd” (essentially a 5-star rating when it comes to fifth graders). I sat back, crunching on a stick of celery, savoring my small victory, and brainstorming ways to get the students to try the hummus we’d be making the very next day.
The 2013 school year in Connecticut is turning out to be an interesting one. In New London, a giant apple showed up to a cafeteria to hand out apple chips, apple cider, and applesauce from apples donated by Palazzi Orchard in Killingly. At North Windham Elementary, 4th and 5th graders were seen standing outside on a beautiful fall day selling vegetables they had grown in their new school garden. Faculty, staff, and community members grabbed at the crisp clean produce, leaving only a few handfuls of herbs by the end of the day. In New Haven, rumors are spreading about small hands in the school kitchen scooping innards out of miniature baking pumpkins, whipping up low-sugar pumpkin custard, pouring the custard back into the hollowed out pumpkins and baking crustless Pumpkin-Pumpkin Pies. In Ansonia, 6th graders were seen walking from their school to nearby Massaro Community Farm, where they transplanted spinach into raised bed cold-frames and solved mysteries about how garlic grows and what yummy orange root vegetable was growing under the fine green strands seen above-ground. Pre-schoolers were found relishing raw spinach snacks in Hartford. Putnam students have been gobbling up fresh carrots from a visiting farmer and feeding red-wiggler worms compost scraps. New Haven garden-clubbers are jumping up and down in excitement at the idea that they could one day be a gardener or farmer – and not just for Halloween. Kids all across the state are acting very strange indeed…or are they?
There is a narrative out there that kids wont eat healthy, but FoodCorps believes (and sees) differently. Twelve FoodCorps service members in school districts across the state are educating kids about where their food comes from, how to prepare delicious meals with fresh, local produce, and how all this relates to personal and community health. In Norwich, New London, New Haven, Bridgeport, Ansonia, New Britain, Hartford, East Hartford, Rockville, Windham and Putnam, FoodCorps service members are supported by community organizations (usually a non-profit, or the school food services department). Service members work with many other partners nearby and around the state (such as the Connecticut Farm-to-School program, Connecticut Ag in the Classroom, Cooking Matters, UConn dietetic interns, and local farmers) to teach classes, build school gardens, and help bring more local produce into school cafeterias. When all these resources are brought together into the school, they help foster fun, positive relationships between kids and whole, unprocessed foods. Students not only learn the link between diet and health, but they learn how to participate in and enjoy the process of making those healthier choices. When these practices are integrated simultaneously in their classrooms, the cafeteria, and at home, we have a real chance of bettering student health outcomes for the future and reversing the trend of childhood diet-related diseases.
So this spooky season, while candy abounds on every corner, the strangest thing you might see is a kid eating a carrot with gusto in his classroom, or hear tales of a class of Ansonia 2nd graders who, on their first encounter, fell in love with baked kale chips…but we promise you, it won’t be strange for long.
FoodCorps is a national non-profit private/public partnership that operates an AmeriCorps program – a nationwide team of leaders that helps kids grow up healthy. The program first came to Connecticut last year through the inspiration and guidance of Jiff Martin, Sustainable Food Systems Educator at the Tolland County UConn Extension office. This year, with the help of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service and other funders, the program was able to expand from the original 5 sites to the current 12. For more information, please contact Dana Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website, and like us on Facebook!
The Connecticut Food Justice Youth Corps (CTFJYC) is a team of five AmeriCorps VISTA’s increasing the collaboration and coherence of non-profits working the field of Food Justice. The strength of this collaboration begins and ends with an understanding of what each of these separate organizations seek to create: a community movement, driven by youth, to improve the access and affordability of healthy food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, or citizenship. These organizations have the common desire to give communities a voice that speaks to their own food needs and to ensure that this voice is loud enough to be heard.
Generally targeting middle and high school age students, individual organizations under the FJYC umbrella are developing a common curricula for use or adaptation at any school, a curricula that seeks to educate and empower. The youth that emerge as leaders, role models and activists are then given the tools to craft a movement of their own design, based on an assessment of community needs through their own eyes. It is the VISTA’s position to support the youth at each juncture, with the aid of community and college volunteers. Along the way youth groups will meet with partner organizations at food policy meetings, summits, and convening’s; the capstone being a youth driven convening for all of the partner organizations to attend, as well as speakers and advocates in the field of food justice. Youth groups will present their projects, the successes and the failures, and learn from one another just how powerful a group of young minds can be in changing the way their community looks at food.
Currently the FJYC is a collaboration of five main organization, backed by the support of FoodCorps, the UConn Extension office, and the Institute for Community Research. Our sites are in locations all across Connecticut, with the connection being a low income, high-risk community in need of food system change. VISTA’s serve with GROW Windham (Windham County), FRESH New London, NEAT (North End, Middletown), Hartford Food Systems and CitySeed (New Haven). Each site has unique challenges dependent upon its location; therefore the common curricula is developed with adaptation in mind. With the continued support of UConn Extension and AmeriCorps, our hope is to expand the network of VISTA’s working with non-profit in the field of food justice from five to twelve in the summer of 2014. Our goal, to make a fluid social movement driven by collective impact is slowly but surely gaining momentum; each day is more exciting than the last.