Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How do we get kids to eat their leafy greens? Try these 2 recipes...

For this year's National Nutrition Month, we are "Going Further with Food!" It's an assumption that getting our kids to eat their leafy greens is always a colossal battle. It's true--salads aren't easy to convince a kid to try when they're staring at something that resembles rabbit food. But by assuming they won't try it means you've already given up, and that's not what we're about here at the Somerville Farm to School Project! So how do we make salads desirable?

For one, we can provide a space for children to grow their own food, to learn the parts of a plant, and to nurture something from seed to harvest. We've learned that, "if they grow it, they'll eat it". It's empowering to be hands-on with food! Even if you don't have outdoor garden space, leafy greens are easy to grow indoors or in small pots as long as you have a sunny window or space.

Secondly, you can involve kids in the kitchen by making fun salad dressings! All you need are a few ingredients, a mason jar, and measuring spoons. Here are two recipes we've found to be extra delicious!

Lastly, maybe salads just aren't in the picture right now. There are plenty of other ways to sneak leafy greens into the diet. You can add to pastas, calzones, soups, and smoothies too!

What other tricks of the trade get your kids to eat their leafy greens?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thousands of Somerville youth try local sweet potatoes! And the verdict is...

Samples of the local sweet potato and black bean salad!
This month, thousands of elementary students throughout the district explored sweet potatoes through taste-tests offered during their lunch periods by the Somerville Farm to School Program and Drumlin Farm. Working in partnership with Drumlin Farm, who runs afterschool programming and supplements produce for our salad bars during the growing season, the November taste-tests are part of the district’s food literacy campaign to increase the acceptance of new, fresh foods and create new recipes for the lunch menu using local ingredients.

We are thankful for the many parent volunteers who helped hand out samples and collect data.

So what did the data say? Of the 2,000 students who voted after trying the delicious sweet potato and black bean salad, 61% said they would eat it again. Because so many students at least tried it, we call that a win! To those who said it wasn't their favorite, we urged them to explain what they would change about it. We heard answers such as, "I would eat it if it didn't have the little red things (peppers)", "it's weird that it was cold" and "nothing". 

A Capuano student casts his vote!

The recipe was inspired by the Island Grown Schools Farm to School program in Martha’s Vineyard. We’ve included the recipe so you can try it out too!

For our final taste-test of the month, we had a special visitor, State House Representative Christine Barber, visit Winter Hill Community School to observe and participate in our local food taste-test! Representative Barber is a Farm to School supporter and we were honored to have her visit and see first-hand the impact our project is having on the community. For those of you wondering, Christine voted in favor of the sweet potato salad! Hear, hear!
Emma Scudder, Drumlin Farm educator, and Christine Barber, State House Rep., collect votes for the sweet potato salad at Winter Hill Community School
Drumlin Farm staff harvest sweet potatoes destined for Somerville schools.

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!