Monday, August 21, 2017

Recipes & Recap from Healthy Summer Harvest!

by Hannah Macfarlane, Farm to School Summer Intern & Tufts Nutrition Graduate Student

This summer, for the fourth year in a row, the SomervilleFarm to School Project ran the Healthy Summer Harvest program at the Capuano school. Every Wednesday for four weeks we visited the school for cooking classes and taste tests with students in the Summer Explore Kindergarten Transition Program. We tried lots of new food and had so much fun with our new friends!

Chef Vanessa from Project Bread led the cooking demonstrations and Hannah, our Farm to School summer intern, chatted with the kids about the foods they were tasting. She was very impressed that some of them already knew that calcium is found in milk! Students were encouraged to try new foods and learned about plants, cooking, and nutrition.

Each week featured a different recipe:

Week 1 – Gingerbread yogurt dip with strawberries and apple slices

Week 4 – Orange bean dip with cucumber slices


The smoothie was definitely the favorite, but many of the kids ended up liking foods they hadn’t tried or had tried and disliked in the past. One class was particularly enthusiastic about the “Green Monstah” Smoothie. Nearly everyone wanted seconds, and we sadly didn’t have enough for more than one serving per student. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully begging for more, the entire class started chanting “Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!” One of their teachers finally got them to stop, only to hear them start a new chant moments later – “Spinach! Spinach! Spinach!” We never expected to hear twenty almost-kindergarteners chanting for more spinach, but we call that a win.

green smoothie spinach
 In addition to the weekly taste tests, we also provided a Healthy Summer Harvest curriculum to inspire teachers to bring Farm to School education into their classrooms. Each lesson focused on a different aspect of plants – seeds, plant parts, elements needed for growth, and the plant life cycle.

seed matching game

Hannah observed one of classes doing the “Fab Five” activity in week 3, during which students made bracelets representing each of the components necessary to grow a plant – a seed, plus water, sun, air, space, and soil (the “Fab Five”). The kids did a great job listening to their teacher and answering the riddles! When they finished, they each had a fun and colorful bracelet to help them remember their lesson. The bracelets were a perfect complement to the bean baby necklaces from Week 2, which the kids were still wearing and keeping warm and well-loved.

seeds needs bracelet

All in all, it has been a fun and busy summer for us here at Somerville Farm to School! We loved spending time with our new friends at the Capuano school, and we’re already thinking about what we can do to make the program even better next year! For more photos and recipes, keep your eyes on the blog and be sure to follow us on Instagram @SvilleFood4Kids.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Brain Booster Foods

Although students are out of school for the summer, it is still a great time to create conversations surrounding food literacy! By purchasing whole, nutrient-dense foods, our young learners will be best prepared to return to the classroom in just a few short weeks with sharp minds and healthy bodies! 

Certain foods are particularly effective in improving brain function! Here's a list of the best brain booster foods youth and adults can enjoy to restore brain function and improve memory! Thank you to Ira Toyota Danvers in Danvers, MA who made this cool infographic as part of their community wellness initiative! 

For more information on Brain Boosting foods, please visit Eat Right's article: "4 types of Foods to Help Boost Your Memory". 

Do you have a summer nutrition education program in your school or community that provides brain booster foods? 

Do you have other brain booster foods not listed here? 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Spring Review: It Takes a Village

It's been a weather roller coaster this year! We've had hot days then cold days, rainy then dry--all proving a challenge for our plantings. Even so, over the past couple of weeks many of the schools were able to harvest and eat fresh veggies right from their gardens! Groundwork Somerville hosted "Salad Days" at Argenziano and East, while parent volunteers at Brown hosted an end of the year Harvest Party with a variety of leafy greens!
Meanwhile, the Farm to School Project worked with elementary schoolers at Brown, Winter Hill, and Kennedy School to start their gardens. 5th Graders at Kennedy learned how to use basic permaculture principals to plan a garden, and explored ways we can improve and replenish soil.
2nd graders became experts in cherry tomato varieties thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds who generously donated over 75 different seeds!! 1st graders continued their study of "Sylvia's Spinach" by learning how to plant spinach seeds, and watch them grow into a tasty, healthy snack, just like the character in the book!

Naturally, as the school year concludes, we reflect on the different groups that make Farm to School possible. As mentioned above, without Groundwork Somerville and parent volunteers, the number of students we are able to reach with garden & food literacy education would not be so high! Of course, a big thank you to the Food Service staff who served many delicious meals over the year that featured local, fresh ingredients, as well as displayed a beautiful salad bar every day using Drumlin Farms produce. 

We also say goodbye to our founding director who will be moving on to new experiences in Charlottesville, VA--look at C'ville--you're receiving a true gem in Karyn!! We cannot imagine the project without her, but look forward to finishing the grant strong with initiating new projects, as well as wrapping up original objectives! THANK YOU KARYN FOR YOUR CREATIVITY, VISION, AND PASSION!! GOOD LUCK IN ALL YOUR NEW VENTURES!!

Karyn demonstrates Sugar Snap Pea planting with Kindergartners, 2016
Spinach Taste Test at Early Childhood Block Party
Turkey Taco with Veggie of the Month: Green Beans

Turkey Teriyaki with Veggie of the Month: Green Beans

Leafy Greens Galore at Brown School!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Put your best FORK forward during National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month! 

Each year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics develops new topics to celebrate National Nutrition Month. This year's theme, Put your best fork forward, encourages us to consider that every bite counts. Even "small shifts in our food choices, can add up over time."

Here in Somerville we are celebrating National Nutrition Month in a few ways.

~ We are releasing Veggie of the Month kits in each school's library! The kits contain books, taste testing supplies, and a binder with lesson materials for each month! 

~ We are visiting a few PreK-2nd grade classes to "taste-test" the veggie of the month: leafy greens!  In the classroom, we are reading Sylvia's Spinach and making a simple salad dressing to drizzle over spinach! (Be sure to check back later for the results of our visits!) 

Our Wellness Champions and Farm to School Staff are posting bulletin boards and fliers around the schools!

~ Teachers are sharing a brief presentation with their students that encourages them to learn the tools to healthier choices and make small changes each day throughout the month!

~ We're sharing our fun tips toward healthy eating on social media! Follow us on Instagram & Twitter @SvilleFood4Kids to discover what they are! 

How are you celebrating National Nutrition Month?
What little changes can we make in our daily diet to reach a healthier plate?

Get creative and have fun, and remember, each bite counts!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mindful Eating: Part 2

How to eat with intention and attention
Lessons from a Raisin
What does it mean to eat mindfully? Last post we learned a bit about how relaxing before diving into a meal greatly improves digestion. Beyond physiological benefits, bringing mindfulness into your daily diet also enhances flavors and appreciation of what is on your plate. This can lead to less wasted nutrients, less over-eating, and even raised awareness of where the food came from and how it was prepared.

To eat mindfully is to eat with intention and attention.

I never thought I would enjoy a raisin. Not even a little. But during a mindfulness exercise in an Environmental Consumerism class in college, my sentiments changed. After staring at this thing for 5 minutes (which felt like eternity) and observing every thing about it: smelling it, holding it, bringing it to my lips, and finally tasting it…I actually started to feel guilty I had neglected raisins all this time. With a new-found appreciation for all factors involved in bringing this raisin from the farm to my plate, and all the sensations that came with observing it, there was no way I was throwing that wrinkly little thing away anymore (my original intention). I actually recall it being the best thing I had eaten all day. And to this day, I never fret the raisin. 

In the cafeteria and at home, mindful eating can be a promising approach to inspire children to try new foods and minimize waste. It can also encourage children to reduce frantic eating that could lead to chronic snacking, overeating, or emotional eating. 

Ready to see how a raisin can teach you too? Here’s the mindfulness activity to try with your classroom, family, or just on your own! 
You can also start trying these tricks during meals*:
  Eat with chopsticks.
  Eat with your non-dominant hand.
  Chew your food 30 to 50 times per bite.
  Eat without TV, newspaper or computer.
  Eat sitting down.
  Put the proper portions of food on your plate and try to make the meal last at least 20 minutes.
*Provided by Brigham and Women’s article Mastering the Mindful Meal by Stephanie Vangsness, R.D., L.D.N., C.N.S.D.

Do you think mindfulness in the cafeteria is realistic? 
If you've tried any of the steps above, how did it go? We want to know!

Written by Devon Byrne, NTP
Food Literacy Educator, Somerville Farm to School Project