As the year comes to a close, let's take a look back at some of our top moments from 2017!
1. Chicopee elementary school students gained hands-on experience in the kitchen through after school cooking classes. At Lambert Lavoie, students made pizza, tacos, smoothies, spring rolls, and cupcakes :)
2. Dupont Middle School received a Fuel Up to Play 60 Grant to purchase new gym equipment and serve healthy smoothies in the cafeteria. They also received a mini grant to hold a smoothie competition, which really brought out student creativity!
3. ChicopeeFRESH began partnering with the Chicopee Public Library to offer food-themed workshops for kids. The library also received an LSTA "Combining Good Ingredients" Grant to host a variety of food themed events for all ages throughout the year.
4. ChicopeeFRESH celebrated Whole Grain Sampling Day by passing out popcorn samples at Chicopee Comprehensive High School. Students got to top their popcorn with homemade seasonings such as ranch and cinnamon sugar.
5. FoodCorps Service Members built a total of 30 new raised garden beds and started two new school gardens at Litwin Elementary and Dupont Middle School.
6. Chicopee food service staff participated in a variety of unique professional development and group bonding opportunities, including a chocolate workshop with Pastry Chef Simon Stevenson from UMass Amherst.
7. Thanks to Chicopee's Schools that Bake initiative, K-5 students now enjoy weekly fresh baked muffins and bars as part of their school breakfast.
8. The ChicopeeFRESH team visited 88 Acres, a family-owned business out of Boston making handcrafted seed bars and seed butters. We've since started serving 88 Acres seed bars for breakfast! They're a delicious and nutritious snack, perfect for taking on the go, and ideal for students with nut allergies.
9. Chicopee piloted Backyard Grower's Salad and Harvest Days program, which gives students two complete seed to fork experiences each year through three organized visits to the garden, where they get to plant, harvest, and then taste vegetables in the cafeteria. The pilot was a great success, and hundreds of students at Stefanik, Bowe, and Streiber schools got to participate.
10. Second grade students at Bowe Elementary took a field trip to La Finca, a farm operated by non-profit Nuestras Raices in Holyoke, MA. Students rotated through stations, where they got to help in the garden, visit with the animals, taste test new foods, and take a tour of the farm.
11. FoodCorps Service Members held monthly taste tests, and even got students to give a thumbs up to locally sourced fish!
12. Bellamy kitchen staff created a smoothie and yogurt parfait bar, which was a huge hit with students! They loved personalizing their own parfaits, complete with local yogurt, and toppings such as fresh and frozen fruit, granola, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.
13. FoodCorps Service Members worked with the Cabot Manor summer program to host garden and food themed activities for kids, such as scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, and cooking. Participants got to build their own solar pizza ovens, make butter, and practice plant part yoga among other things.
14. FoodCorps Service Members hung out with the amazing Chicopee Public Library Bookmobile staff and passed out fresh produce and recipes at local parks.
15. 2-year FoodCorps Service Member, Greta Shwachman, got hired on as a full time Farm to School Program Coordinator for the district! We also got two new awesome FoodCorps Service Members, Molly Burke and Kelly Zimmerhanzel.
16. ChicopeeFRESH and Dupont Middle School raised $2000 as part of fundraising efforts to build a new greenhouse at Dupont this spring. Mark your calendar for our next fundraiser at Chipotle on January 27th from 5-9pm.
17. Chicopee Food Service Director, Joanne Lennon, was named a Kale Blazer by MA Farm to School for her innovative and outstanding work in farm to school. She received this honor at the State House on Farm to School Awareness Day, October 26th.
Thanks for reading our top 17 highlights from 2017! This was an awesome year for all things farm to school, and we can't wait to see what 2018 holds for ChicopeeFRESH!
Back in November, Senator Donald F. Humason, Jr. visited Patrick E. Bowe School to check out the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) Program in action! He was joined by Mayor Richard Kos, Food Service Director Joanne Lennon, Principal David Drugan, and Laura Sylvester from the Western MA Food Bank. He was very impressed with the program, and delighted to find that over 90% of students eat breakfast before they began their studies each day. Senator Humason is a strong believer in the importance of beginning the school day with a full stomach. The Bowe School Nurse pointed out that there has been a decrease in visits to her office as a result of the program, which shows that it is working to curb hunger and improve energy and focus in the classroom. During his visit, the Senator passed through many Bowe classrooms and solicited student opinions about the program and breakfast options. All the students reported that they were happy with the food choices available through BIC. Moreover, classrooms were very quiet and students were engaged in writing or reading as they ate their breakfasts. It’s a win win situation for all!
By Kelly Zimmerhanzel, FoodCorps Service Member
For my family, the holidays have always revolved around food. My earliest memories of this time of year are inextricably intertwined with the smells and sounds of a busy kitchen. Free from the demands of work and school, we could finally all gather in the kitchen and cook a meal together. My mom and dad taught my older sisters the basics of cooking and my middle sister then taught me, relishing the rare opportunity to be a little bossy. As a newly-minted kitchen helper, I began as a lowly “taste tester,” but was soon promoted to “sous chef,” expanding my responsibilities to the crucial tasks of stirring and measuring.
As an adult, I’ve realized how lucky I am that my family taught me to cook; many of my friends are living on their own for the first time without these skills. I recently taught a twenty-something friend of mine how to grate cheese because he had never done it before. He could buy grated cheese or just go out to eat, but research shows that people who cook at home tend to be healthier while spending less of their monthly income on food. This is something I've noticed while eating within my own tight budget.
I know the holidays are an especially busy time for parents. With so much to do and the kids at home all week, it is tempting to give them your phone or tablet or turn on a movie to distract them while you work. But regardless of what you celebrate during the winter break, consider inviting the kids to help out in the kitchen. While you may think that your kids are too young to help, even the youngest kids can manage simple tasks. I have made smoothies and no-bake pumpkin bites with my second grade classes and found that they can easily manage measuring and stirring. You may be surprised by how eager your kids are to learn, and giving them the skills to nourish themselves later in life is one of the greatest gifts.
If you want ideas on how to get the kids to help out in the kitchen, check out this article, which outlines appropriate cooking skills by age: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/guide-cookery-skills-age.
Making a salad? Little hands love to rip up lettuce and kale! Try using different types of leaves and having kids compare the differences in texture. For example, curly kale and dinosaur kale feel completely different!
Herb gardens are an awesome way for kiddos to use their sense of smell (and taste)! If you don't have access to an outdoor garden, try growing one indoors on a windowsill. Some great herbs to grow are mint, lemon balm, basil, oregano, sage, and rosemary. You can even do a scavenger hunt, with clues such as: find the plant that smells like gum or toothpaste (mint); find the plant that smells like sprite (lemon balm); and find the plant that smells like Italian food (oregano).
It's important to eat a rainbow of fruits and veggies! Have your child sort the fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator by color and come up with a recipe that incorporates all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange/yellow, green, blue/purple, white/brown). For inspiration, check out this rainbow smoothie recipe:
Try using popcorn as a blank canvas for flavor! Explore the five flavor profiles with the following ingredients: spicy (cinnamon), salty (salt), sweet (honey), sour (lemon juice), and bitter (cocoa powder). You can also mix your own seasonings such as ranch, buffalo, cinnamon sugar, etc.
Celebrate the joy of healthy eating with a good old fashioned carrot crunch! You can even crunch a variety of vegetables and compare the sound, or compare the crunchiness of carrots after being cooked for different lengths of time.
Students at Dupont Middle School are getting their hands dirty this fall as part of Dupont's new after school Garden Club. Since September, a group of passionate and curious students have become caretakers of Dupont's five raised garden beds, and have had the opportunity to harvest and prepare healthy recipes from scratch. So far, students have made crunchy kale chips, rainbow smoothies, scarlet kale salads, and quick pickled vegetables, showing that when kids grow healthy food, they eat healthy food! The club also hosted a rainbow smoothie taste test for the whole school, which received rave reviews.
Moving forward, the Dupont Garden Club is eager to continue their green streak by installing a greenhouse on campus so that they can grow and taste healthy food all year long! This Dupont Greenhouse Project would allow students to grow food during winter months, start seeds for elementary school gardens, and connect gardening to STEM curriculum. It would also play an important role in creating a healthy school culture at Dupont and teaching students to make fresh fruits and vegetables a regular part of their diets. Garden Club students will use greenhouse produce in cafeteria taste tests, and pass it out at an after school farm stand. Pretty cool stuff, huh?
In order make this amazing vision a reality, the Dupont Garden Club needs your help! They're currently raising money through an online fundraising platform, which will be accepting donations until THIS FRIDAY, DEC 15th at 12 PM EST. That means there's only 4 days left to donate to this great cause. Click the button below to donate, and be sure to share the link with friends and family! And if you're unable to donate at this time, stay tuned for more ways to help out. Thank you!
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps Service Member
When you’re at your wit’s end trying to get a kid to try a new vegetable, you resort to the Trojan Horse method: hiding the offending food in other dishes. The logic goes as such: you love Little One, Little One hates healthy food, but you’ll be darned if Little One isn’t eating healthy, whether they know it or not. Thanks to generational wisdom (and Pinterest), we all know a million different ways to hide a whole range of veggies from picky eaters. My mom was no stranger to pureeing eggplant into my lasagna. I, too, once took secret joy in sneaking beans into meals cooked for a legume-hating but fiber-poor ex boyfriend. From butternut squash stirred into mac and cheese to meatballs packed with tiny mushroom chunks, invisible veggies just go down easier with those who can’t even look at a cauliflower floret without gagging. This includes many of my students, who won’t hesitate to proclaim that the turnip greens I’ve just harvested and lovingly prepared for them look “absolutely disgusting. YEEUUCHHH”
Part of my job as a FoodCorps service member is to encourage these pint-sized naysayers to try healthy foods in a fun and controlled environment so that they’ll actually eat the vegetables on their school lunch tray instead of throwing them away. I do this by conducting taste tests of locally-sourced produce on a monthly basis with my co-service member, Kelly. My goal when selecting a taste test recipe is to ensure the veggie appears prominently in the dish, so the kids can recognize it and eat it when it resurfaces in future meals. This is especially important when the vegetable is brand new to them; whereas nearly every kid knows what carrots look like before they’re mashed up into a souffle, fewer have encountered an intact beet or radish. Admittedly, it’s hard to reconcile this vision with veggies so brazenly healthy that they scare kids away on sight. Is it a coincidence that the veggies with the worst reputations for flavor tend to be dark green? Broccoli, collards, and green beans each incited horror among my sisters and I at our childhood family dinners. Those scary green mounds were the visual embodiments of sheer, unadulterated nutrition! There was no way stuff that looked like that would taste good!
So, with kale on the docket for November’s Harvest of the Month taste test, Kelly and I considered our options: mask the leafy green threat in fruity smoothies? Blend up some kale hummus? Try kale pesto pasta? Each of these recipes would render the original kale leaves unidentifiable, but we guessed that with its big, fluffy leaves and deep green hue, it’d be a tough sell if left raw.
But kids can surprise us. Before the monthly sampling kicked off, I had tested a kale salad recipe with some of my Stefanik Elementary students. Each kid picked their own leaf from the beautiful purple kale plants growing in the school garden. They watched, some eagerly, some with heavy skepticism, as I tossed the leaves in orange juice vinaigrette and passed them out like leafy popsicles. Overwhelmingly, the students told me they loved it and picked their stems clean. Armed with those positive preliminary reviews, Kelly and I decided to buck kid-friendly kitchen logic and serve raw kale salad to everyone.
This salad had no frills beyond its sweet and tangy dressing--no croutons to distract from all those frighteningly fresh greens, nor Craisins to incentivize both chewing and swallowing. Right before our kickoff taste test at Bowe Elementary, I got cold feet, panicking that the Stefanik kids were only jazzed about eating raw kale because they’d picked it themselves. To my shock and delight, a majority of the Bowe students who tried the salad voted that they’d either liked it or loved it! We went on to tally a 69% positive response on average at Lambert-Lavoie, Stefanik, and Litwin during subsequent taste tests. I loved the kale taste test because it proved that, while having your kid help prepare their own healthy food (picking kale, dressing a salad, stirring a pot, whatever) is a sure-fire way to get them to taste it, kids won’t always balk at a food based on looks alone. It helps that Kelly and I bring lots of energy to these events and reward brave tasters with stickers. But at the end of the day, kids will face their ultimate food foes on their own and decide they aren’t so disgusting after all. Now hopefully, when they see kale again in their school lunch, they won’t be afraid to dig in.
ChicopeeFRESH team members Joanne Lennon and Rachel Harb presented a session "Designing the Local, Affordable School Menu" at the first annual Mass. Farm to School Institute Fall Retreat on Friday November 3, 2017 at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, MA.
Joanne and Rachel presented a case study on the Chicopee Public Schools' farm to school program (also known as ChicopeeFRESH) and how Chicopee Food Service increased spending on local produce from just $10,000 in 2014 to almost $300,000 local foods in 2017 and how we now source a variety of local foods besides just produce, such as meats, cheeses, homemade applesauce, and protein-packed seed granola bars. (Factoring in regionally-sourced Hood fluid milk, Chicopee schools spends closer to $600,000 total on local foods and beverages!) They then gave pointers on how schools can define local, set goals on purchasing local food, and track progress along the way.
The Mass. Farm to School Institute is a year-long professional learning opportunity for school teams across the state. This year, participating schools included Essex Tech, Webster Public Schools, and Ipswich Public Schools.
The MA FTS Institute is presented in partnership with the Northeast Farm to School Collaborative, which has hosted the Northeast FTS Institute since 2015 with Vermont FEED. The FTS Institute model was developed and refined by Vermont FEED using evidence-based best practices in professional learning.
If you might be interested in attending the 2018-19 Mass. Farm to School Institute, sign up for the Mass. Farm to School newsletter and keep an eye out for the announcement to apply Spring/Summer of 2018.
This October we're celebrating local pears with a delicious Pear Breakfast Smoothie. Be sure to try this recipe at home for an easy, nutritious, on-the-go breakfast or snack!
The results from our 3rd Annual Pumpkin Contest are in! We are so proud of all of our participants who worked hard to care for their pumpkin plants over the summer, and demonstrated responsibility, patience, and perseverance. Below are the participants and winners from each school, along with the top 10 heaviest pumpkins across the district.
District-Wide Data: The Top 10 Heaviest Pumpkins
A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this year's contest! We can't wait for next year. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for all our latest updates and events. And if you haven't already, sign up for our new monthly newsletter here!
Thanks to the guidance of our friends at Backyard Growers in Gloucester, MA, we've adopted their amazing school garden program called Salad Days and Fall Harvest Days. Salad Days takes place in the spring, when students in grades K-5 plant lettuce, harvest it 6-8 weeks later, and then turn around and plant a fall crop such as beets, potatoes, squash, or dry beans. Fast forward to September, and students head back out into the garden to harvest the vegetables that they planted in June. What's more, we roast them up and serve them in the cafeteria so that students can have a complete seed to fork experience.
Our students had a blast out in the garden with FoodCorps Service Members, Molly and Kelly. They took turns in groups either playing a fun veggie-themed game or harvesting from their class garden bed. At Stefanik, students harvested over 70 lbs of vegetables, including carrots, beets, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, and dry beans. At Bowe, students harvested beets, dry beans, and potatoes. The roasted potatoes at Bowe we're a big hit, with many students asking for seconds!
As always, we're so proud of Chicopee students for being adventurous in the cafeteria, and willing to get their hands dirty in the garden. We're looking forward to spring so we can begin the process all over again with Salad Days!
If you would like to be involved with our garden programming, please contact us at email@example.com, or fill out the volunteer form on our website here.
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.