By Kelly Zimmerhanzel, FoodCorps Service Member
In September and October, students at Stefanik, Bowe, Litwin, and Streiber returned to their school gardens to harvest the beets, carrots, and potatoes they planted back in June! These Harvest Days are part of the Harvest Days and Salad Days program that Chicopee Fresh has adopted from our friends at Backyard Growers in Gloucester. The program gives every student involved a total of three garden visits and two seed-to-fork experiences over the course of the year. For the Harvest Day, each third, fourth, and fifth grade class comes out to the garden for 20 minutes to harvest what they planted back in June, and a few days later, the students get to taste what they harvested in the cafeteria!
Root vegetables are some of the most exciting things to harvest, because you can’t really tell how big they’ll be or what they’ll look like until you pull them out. I love seeing the joy on the kids’ faces when they get a particularly big carrot or beet, or accidentally grab a whole handful when they were expecting just one. Potatoes are particularly fun, because when you pull out the plant, you rarely get all the potatoes with it, so I always tell the kids to dig around and try to find more. They get so excited when they unearth potatoes hidden deep in the dirt, as if they’ve just discovered buried treasure.
The harvest at Stefanik was by far the largest, with 13 pounds of carrots, 34 pounds of beets, and 4 pounds of potatoes! Bowe had the second largest harvest with 7 pounds of carrots, 8 pounds of beets, and 21 pounds of potatoes. Streiber came in third with 11 pounds of carrots and 13 pounds of potatoes. Litwin had the smallest harvest overall, with 15 pounds of carrots and 6 pounds of potatoes, but even this was impressive considering the fifth graders did all the planting and harvesting.
A few days after the harvest, students got to try the veggies they harvested in the cafeteria. For the taste tests, we cut the carrots, beets, and potatoes into bite-sized pieces, sprinkled them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and roasted them in the oven.
The students were eager to try the veggies they had grown and harvested, and while a few students really loved the beets, the potatoes were by far the biggest hit. Students at Stefanik were the biggest fans of the roasted veggies: 118 students loved it, 47 liked it, and 45 disliked it. Streiber came in a close second: 70 students loved it, 33 liked it, and 24 disliked it. Litwin came next: 91 students loved it, 51 liked it, and 45 disliked it. The veggies were least popular with the students at Bowe, perhaps because only the beets and carrots were served due to a mishap with the potatoes: 55 students loved it, 45 liked it, and 65 disliked it. However, 95 students either liked it or loved it and only 65 disliked it, which is still positive.
A special thanks to our friends Juniper, Kali, and Nick from FoodCorps in Springfield, who came to help us out with one of the Harvest Days and two of the Taste Tests!
Students at Bowe and Stefanik Elementary Schools now have the unique opportunity of growing fresh greens and herbs year-round right inside their cafeterias thanks to EvanLee Organics and 24:45 Organics patented growing technology. The grow racks use a terraponic system with nutrient-rich soil supplied from the company, which is composted in a large bin between plantings. An automated light system supplies plants with the ideal amount of light each day, helping the system remain highly productive year-round. Each rack can produce 15 - 30 lbs of produce per month, and most greens and herbs provide multiple harvests. The system is sustainable, easy to operate, and will allow students to garden year-round. The racks will also supply hyper local produce for school salad bars for both students and staff. So far, we have grown kale, sage, basil, spinach, chives, and several varieties of lettuce. Moving forward, we will work closely with cafeteria staff to customize the crops for school meals. Our two FoodCorps service members, Anna and Kelly, will oversee the grow racks and use them in hands-on lessons with students. We are very excited to use these new systems to supplement our existing farm to school programs. Be sure to follow us @chicopeefresh for the latest updates about this project!
The Chicopee Downtown Get Down is an annual block party showcasing local businesses and organizations and featuring live entertainment and delicious eats. This was our third year taking part in the festivities, and it's an event we look forward to all year long!
In order to promote our Farm to School programs, we served local yogurt parfaits featuring local fruit, local yogurt, and even local granola! A big thanks to Local Maple Granola in Holyoke, MA for donating a delicious lemon granola that was a smash hit with parfait customers. We also gave students the opportunity to take a spin on our Blender Bike and mix up their own healthy fruit smoothies. Even May Kos gave it a go!
Thanks to everyone who came out to enjoy the Get Down and support Chicopee businesses and organizations. We hope to see you next year! Comment below with ideas for what we should serve at the Get Down next year :)
Introducing Chicopee's newest school garden! We're thrilled to have a new raised bed garden right outside Lambert-Lavoie Elementary School. So far, we've got a variety of crops planted for students to harvest this fall, such as radishes, beets, carrots, and lettuce. We've also planted herbs for a fun sensory experience. Come spring, students will participate in Salad Days programming. They will also have the opportunity to take part in a garden club led by FoodCorps Service Member, Kelly Zimmerhanzel. If you are a Lambert parent or a resident of the neighborhood and are interested in getting involved, please reach out to either Kelly or Greta. Thank you!
On June 25th, we hosted our first ever School Garden Training as a voluntary professional development opportunity for Chicopee K-5 educators. We were thrilled to have a group of 10 teachers and paraprofessionals from six schools join us at the Stefanik Garden for a day of hands-on learning focused on building, maintaining, and utilizing school gardens.
Thanks to Panera, Starbucks, Stop & Shop, and Bernat's, we were able to provide participants with breakfast and lunch to fuel a fun day of learning. We started off with a tour of the garden, led by FoodCorps service member, Molly Burke (pictured below). Molly has been busy working in the garden with Stefanik students this year!
After discussing ways to engage students in the garden and connect gardening to the curriculum, participants got to work building two 4x4 ft raised garden beds, which will become a part of the new Lambert Lavoie School Garden. Teams raced against each other (unofficially) to see who could put together their raised bed the fastest. Below is one of the teams with their beautiful finished bed!
After our garden building session, participants continued to get hands-on by harvesting food for their lunch. We harvested kale for a big kale salad, and garlic scapes and basil for a delicious garlic scape pesto. Find the pesto recipe here. This was a great example of how easy it can be to cook with kids in the garden!
In the afternoon, we wrapped up the training with sessions on fundraising and starting a garden club, led by Bowe teacher and Farm to School Planning Team member, Harry Brandt. Mr. Brandt, a former journalist, walked participants through the process of creating a media packet to highlight their school garden program. He also shared his tips and tricks for creating a successful after-school garden club like the one at Bowe Elementary. Additionally, we discussed ways to save money by using recycled materials such as cardboard, milk cartons, pallets, milk jugs, etc. The possibilities are endless if you get creative!
A big thanks to all of the incredible educators who came out to our training! We hope to be able to host more workshops in the future and continue to grow a network of school garden champions across the district.
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps Service Member
Looking for a healthy twist on the desserts your kids love? Here are two, tested and approved by Stefanik Stars! We experimented with healthy substitutions in this delicious brownie batter recipe, which, with a few ingredient omissions, doubles as a vegan ice cream topping or dipping sauce for fruit. These brownies are made with black beans instead of flour for a fudgy texture and a big dose of healthy fiber and plant protein. You can also substitute fiber-and-vitamin-rich dates for half of the sugar without sacrificing sweetness. The best part is that you can’t taste the black beans--even in the raw chocolate sauce! It’s almost too good to be true.
For brownies: Preheat oven to 350F. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips or walnuts to a blender and blend until smooth. Add milk or water a few tablespoons at a time if mixture is too thick to blend. Fold in desired toppings and stir with a spoon to combine. Pour batter into a greased baking dish and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean (if you added liquid, cook time may be longer). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then serve. Makes about 16 brownies.
Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, adding more water if too thick. Can also use a bowl and hand mixer or potato masher. Serve over ice cream or as a dipping sauce for your favorite fruit. We tried it with strawberries and bananas!
by Kelly Zimmerhanzel, FoodCorps Service Member
Remember that lettuce we planted back in April? Well, it grew! In June, we had the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at Litwin, Streiber, Stefanik, and Bowe come out into the garden to harvest their lettuce and plant fall crops including carrots, beets, and potatoes as part of our Salad Days and Harvest Days program. The program, created by Backyard Growers in Gloucester, gives every student involved a total of three garden visits and two seed-to-fork experiences over the course of the year. In April, each class comes out to the garden to plant lettuce seeds. The lettuce grows until June, when each class returns to harvest what they planted and sow the fall crops: potatoes, beets, and carrots. The next day, we all enjoy a student-grown salad taste test in the cafeteria. Each class returns to the garden in the September to harvest the fall crops, which are then roasted and taste-tested in the cafeteria.
Lettuce at the Bowe School Garden
Each class comes out to the garden for just 30 minutes to harvest and plant. First, they have to wash their hands. Then, we take them to the half of the bed that they planted and give each student a pair of scissors and assign them a square. Molly, Greta, or I will then demonstrate how to grab the top of the lettuce and snip it off with the scissors just above the soil, so our lettuce stays clean. We also show them how to snip off the roots of the lettuce if they accidentally pull them out and explain that is not the right way to do it because it gets dirt everywhere.
A student at Bowe cutting their lettuce
The kids put the harvested leaves in one of our harvest bins and keep harvesting until their square is completely denuded. When everyone is done harvesting, we move over to our washing station, where each student grabs a handful of lettuce, swishes it around in a bin full of water, and then moves it to a bin with holes to let it dry.
Students at Litwin washing their lettuce
Once all the lettuce is washed, we add it to the basket of our giant salad spinner. Molly, Greta, or I will put the top on the salad spinner and show the kids how to crank it. Each student gets to crank the salad spinner five times and then moves to the end of the line and we keep spinning it until the salad is dry. I like to ask the students or teachers if they know how to count in any languages other than English or Spanish, because those are the only two I know. Some of the kids immediately requested, “Spanish!” and a few even requested, “Spanglish!” so I counted one number in English and the next in Spanish! Many of the students and teachers shared their languages with me, including one student who counted in Khmer and a teacher who counted for us in Greek!
Greta helping students at Stefanik spin their lettuce
Students at Litwin admiring their dry lettuce
Once the lettuce is dried, we put it in a big bag so that we can put it in the refrigerator and serve it in the cafeteria the next day! Then, we head back to the bed and each student has to remove the lettuce roots and any weeds from their square, otherwise the lettuce will keep growing and choke out our fall crops! When the square is completely clear, we ask the students who are planting potatoes to dig a hole in the middle of their square. We give each student a potato and remind them to plant it with the eye (the sprouting part) up, so that the plant can grow. Finally, they gently sweep the soil over the potato.
Students at Streiber digging holes for their potatoes
For the students planting beets and carrots, the process is a little different. When the square is completely clear, we ask each student to make a 4x4 array of holes in their square by digging in their pointer finger to the first joint. Once each student has 16 evenly spaced holes in their square, we give them a pinch of beet or carrot seeds and instruct them to place one seed in each hole and return any extra seeds to us or ask us for extra seeds if they do not have enough. When all the seeds are in the holes, they gently sweep the soil over them to cover them up. At this point, the class is all done and can return inside!
A student at Streiber planting carrot or beet seeds
A student at Streiber planting carrots
A student at Stefanik planting beets
At Stefanik, we were lucky enough to have Hannah and Dana, two representatives from 88 Acres, one of our local vendors, come out to play a telephone with the kids and give them a sample of their Pumpkin Seed Butter.
88 Acres representative Hannah giving the kids samples of Pumpkin Seed Butter
Altogether, we harvested about 143 pounds of lettuce - 7 pounds from Litwin, 22 pounds from Streiber, 21 pounds from Stefanik, and a whopping 93 pounds from Bowe! The harvest at Bowe was on Monday, June 18th, the hottest day of the year so far. Despite more than half of the students being absent that day, and having to harvest in about half the time to avoid the heat of the afternoon, we managed to harvest all 93 pounds of lettuce!
The students were able to taste their lettuce in the cafeteria the day after we harvested. At Litwin and Streiber, we made a balsamic vinaigrette dressing with olive oil, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and a little honey. During every Taste Test, we allow the students to vote whether they disliked the dish, liked it, or loved it by dropping the backs of their stickers into the voting buckets. At Litwin, 30 percent of students disliked the salad, while 70 percent of students liked it or loved it! At Streiber, the results were even more positive; 27 percent of students disliked it and 73 percent of students liked it or loved it!
Molly and I showing off the lettuce before the Litwin Taste Test
At Stefanik and Bowe, we tried 88 Acres’ recipe for ranch using their Pumpkin Seed Butter. I’ll admit, I was skeptical of ranch made out of seed butter, but once I tried it, I was hooked. The kids seemed to like it too! At Stefanik, 33 percent of students disliked the salad, while 67 percent liked it or loved it! At Bowe, the results were even better; only 18 percent of students disliked it, while 82 percent of students liked it or loved it!
Although we didn’t manage to use all the lettuce in our taste tests, we made sure it didn’t go to waste. The extra lettuce from Litwin and Streiber was donated to Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and at Stefanik and Bowe, Molly and I put the lettuce in individual produce bags, and during dismissal we handed it out to parents and students, who were excited to take home a little piece of their garden!
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
Much has happened over the past academic year with FoodCorps! Here is a look back on some of the fun that happened at Stefanik, Litwin, Lambert-Lavoie, and Bowe with Molly and Kelly.
We're so thankful to Sunshine Village for donating these beautiful handmade signs to our school gardens! Since the fall, we've been collaborating with Sunshine Village to offer monthly taste tests and cooking experiences to their participants. For instance, in December, we practiced chopping carrots, made honey glazed carrot coins, and played pin the nose on the snowman! We're so thankful for this partnership and so in awe of these gorgeous signs! Click here for more information about Sunshine Village.
Built on the belief that adults with disabilities can lead rich, meaningful lives, Sunshine Village is a thriving, vibrant community where more than 450 adults and their families come to connect, learn, contribute—and shine.
To celebrate seafood as the Harvest of the Month, we tried out a new product from our friends at North Coast Seafoods, a cross between salmon and falafel known as "Salafel." We paired small Salafel sliders we tzatziki sauce and pita for a delicious and balanced bite! There isn't an official recipe for this taste test, but we encourage everyone to enjoy local seafood at home!
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.