March is dairy month, and to celebrate, team Project Food Awareness visited McCray's Farm in South Hadley, MA.
Zach St. Laurent and Rachelle Lemieux, juniors at Chicopee Comprehensive High School, got the opportunity to tour McCray's pasteurizing plant, which opened in July 2013. Mike McCray, the operator of the plant, showed off their impressive machinery (including a bottle washer from the 1930's), and explained the production process. First, the milk is separated into skim milk and cream, and then the correct percentage of cream is introduced back into the milk to make 1%, 2%, and whole milk. Then the milk is VAT pasteurized, meaning it is heated at a lower temperature for a longer time than quicker and hotter methods used by large store brands such as Hood. After the milk is pasteurized, it is homogenized, cooled, and then stored until there is enough volume to bottle and refrigerate it. McCray's works with All Star Dairy to distribute their milk to local supermarkets such as Big Y, and local schools such as Chicopee :) If everything in the process runs smoothly, McCray's milk can make it from the cow to the supermarket shelf in 24 hours.
After touring the plant, Mike showed us some of McCray's 55 dairy cows. Unfortunately, they are only milked twice a day at 4am and 4pm, and we weren't able to see the milking in action. Fortunately, however, we got to play with an adorable BABY COW!! (See pics below).
Overall, it was an awesome trip, despite the drizzly weather. If you haven't been to McCray's, you should definitely check it out! Their creamery opens back up this Wednesday, March 30th, and they have delicious homemade ice cream and other goodies. Also, if you're grocery shopping in the area, consider purchasing local and picking up some McCray's milk. Below is a list of local retailers who carry McCray's milk products.
Buy McCray's Here:
- Adam’s in Monson
- Armata’s in Longmeadow
- Arnold’s Meats in Chicopee
- Atkin’s Farm in Amherst
- Big Y in South Hadley and Chicopee
- Fruit Fair in Chicopee
- Valley Farms in Easthampton
McCray's milk is also being featured in Chicopee cafeterias to celebrate Mass Farm to School's Harvest of the Month program, which has designated March as "Dairy Month." Not only has our monthly taste test item (chocolate banana smoothies) used McCray's chocolate milk, but all 15 schools will use McCray's milk to make farm fresh chocolate pudding this thursday, March 30th. You can view our menus here to find out when local options are being served.
Litwin Elementary School is piloting a brand new digital signage solution from NutriSlice, a company that's revolutionizing school lunch menus. You can view our new online NutriSlice menus here.
Litwin's brand new digital signage screen will display the day's lunch menu (along with nutrition information), as well as a variety of nutrition fun facts and information about our farm to school program. The goal of the signage is to teach students about fruits and vegetables, and get them excited about trying new foods in the cafeteria! It will compliment our existing monthly taste test program, and feature photos of past taste tests and updates regarding future events.
Students were thrilled to see a TV being installed on Monday afternon, thinking this was finally their opportunity to watch cartoons or play Xbox during lunch time. Unfortunately, the TV screen is purely educational, but hopefully they'll still be excited to learn about healthy food!
Curious what students will be seeing in the Litwin cafeteria? Check out a preview of the signage display here!
Zach and Rachelle, two high schoolers from Chicopee Comp, are on a mission to spread awareness about the local food being served in Chicopee. This past Friday, they walked next door to neighboring elementary school, Lambert-Lavoie, to help FoodCorps Service Member, Greta Shwachman, conduct a taste test with farm fresh butternut squash noodles.
These spiralized vegetable noodles are the newest offering from local farmer, Joe Czajkowski, who is located in Hadley, MA. They are available in butternut squash, beet, sweet potato, and turnip, and are being sold in select Whole Foods and at the Boston Public Market.
The noodles, roasted with olive oil, Parmesan, and garlic, were a hit among most students, and received rave reviews by school staff. Some said it was their favorite taste test to date (but I'm sure that will change next month when we taste test chocolate banana smoothies!)
Everyone was also excited to have the dynamic duo of Project Food Awareness, Zach and Rachelle, in attendance. They interviewed students and foodservice staff, helped prepare the veggie spaghetti, and passed out a rainbow of "I tried it!" stickers to students adventurous enough to participate in the taste test (which was nearly every student!)
Rachelle is currently hard at work editing this new episode of Project Food Awareness, but in the meantime check out Episode 1 below to learn more about Czajkowski Farms! Be on the lookout on our Facebook page for the premiere of episode 2 and other updates about Project Food Awareness.
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.