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!
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.