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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mindful Eating: Part 1

In order to digest your food properly, your body must be in parasympathetic mode, or in a state of non-stress. Kindergartners know this. Well, they might not know the scientific term yet, but during lunch they participate in 6 minutes of silence; a period they call "Mindful Eating". When asked why they like mindful eating, the children replied, because "it’s quiet”, “I can enjoy my food better”, “I get peace and quiet”, and "it’s calmly”.

Kindergartener teacher Ms. Scrima, and other Kennedy School teachers have been implementing mindfulness in the cafeteria and their classrooms since last year. They are proud to have a lunch period that looks and sounds quite different from the chaotic cafeteria rush other classes often experience. While the students sit silently at the lunch table checking in with their emotions, their digestive systems are also benefitting. Physiologically, only when our bodies are in rest mode can the brain trigger the release of digestive enzymes, which breakdown our food into absorbable nutrients.  If we are constantly in a state of stress, our food will not be broken down properly, which can lead to digestive ailments and nutrient deficiencies.

Think about why some cultures say a prayer before a meal, or sit on the floor to eat…these are ways of turning the "rest switch" on. By getting our students to relax before and during eating, we are helping their lunchtime truly become a moment for nourishment. 

If you are interested in incorporating mindfulness into your daily life or classroom activities, visit the Kennedy Mindfulness Team’s webpage, and follow their 7-week mindfulness program.

Do you practice mindful eating at home or school? If so, please share your techniques!

Devon Byrne, NTP
Food Literacy Educator

Monday, October 24, 2016

Harvest Season in Full Swing at Somerville Public Schools!

We’ve had a busy Fall season in the gardens! This week will wrap up the final, yet very important, chore of “putting the garden to bed”! Parent volunteers, students, and educators have been hard at work since the beginning of school, harvesting and tasting a variety of vegetables, saving tomato seeds, and planting garlic! Now it’s time to say goodnight to the gardens, as we learn about the importance of cover crops, mulching, and how some plants survive during the winter. Lower elementary school students have been engaged and directly involved in making sure our gardens stay healthy over the winter until we wake them up in the Spring!

We also celebrated our annual Corn Shucking and Local Harvest Day! With the help of community partner volunteers (Groundwork, Shape Up, UMass), parents, and students we shucked over 3,000 ears of corn before school even started! The children enjoyed the fruits of their labor with a local beef burger for lunch! Corn Shucking is always a favorite day of the school year for student and staff, and this year proved no different. Thanks to garden champion and parent volunteer, Jen, we have the Healey School's corn data, by the numbers:

number of ears shucked:  480  (8 bags w 60 ears each, the kids did the math)
number of minutes to shuck 480 ears of corn: 32
number of student shuckers:  30 give or take
number of volunteer shuckers: 4
number of staff: 5
number of corn earworms found: 4
corny jokes recited:  2
amount of fun had at Healey on Corn Shucking Day: some things can't be measured.

Local Happenings:
Concord, Massachusetts will host the Farm-Based Education Conference on November 4th-6th
This will be a great opportunity for anyone interested in effectively incorporating gardening into daily school curriculum.

Drumlin Farms, who provides farm fresh veggies to our salad bars, has a long list of exciting classes to meet everyone’s interests! Register here