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!
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
Tuesday morning, Mrs. Gelonese’s class of first graders and I set out from Litwin for Luther Belden Farm, in Hatfield, to enjoy a dairy farm field trip donated to us by the New England Dairy and Food Council. Darryl and Lucinda Williams, the farm’s owners, introduced us to their many adorable calves and surprisingly large dairy cows, showed us how their cows are milked by a very precise robot, and made sure we left with a healthy appreciation for local food systems and goodies like stickers and Cabot cheese.
When I returned to Litwin, some 5th graders helped me put together tomato planters made from Home Depot buckets. McKinstry Farms and Harry Brandt from Bowe School generously donated the plants. Thanks, Harry and McKinstry!
Wednesday was one long exercise in self restraint as I prepared four dozen whole grain, lactose-free cupcakes and frosting for two end-of-year class parties for Litwin fifth graders. When people think of plant-based foods, what often comes to mind is savory recipes, like tofu stir fries and veggie burgers. I wanted to show students that they can incorporate vegetables into sweet dishes, too. A few years ago when I was interning at Whole Foods Market, I learned that the in-house bakeries use only natural food dye in their desserts; their vivid green, purple, and pink frostings had been achieved using things like spinach, blueberries, and beets. So I did some research and found natural food dye tutorials online to use with my students. In February, Mrs. Gelonese’s class made pink heart pancakes with beet-derived dye. It had worked pretty well, so I decided to do more colors for the parties. On Tuesday night, I made a fresh batch of the beet dye, plus green, purple, and yellow dyes, made from boiled spinach, blueberries, and turmeric powder, respectively. I had the fifth graders mix frosting with a few drops of dye in snack-size ziploc bags, then squeeze the colorful concoctions into the cupcakes. The dye made the frosting a little runny at times, but the end result was a rainbow of beautiful, naturally colorful cupcakes!
On Thursday, the Stefanik cooking club made whole-wheat pizza from scratch, topped with herbs from the school garden. I’ve been using this dough recipe (which I wrote about in the previous blog post) both at home and in cooking club meetings, and it’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s made with rapid acting yeast and doesn’t need rising time, so it takes only about 10 minutes to prepare, and when rolled thin, only about 12-15 minutes to bake in the oven, depending on how crispy you want it. While the yeast activated, we went outside to the garden to harvest some fresh basil, chives, and oregano from the herb beds. We experimented with both the sweet Genovese and the purple varieties of basil. The kids each got their own dough ball, rolled it out, and topped it with sauce, cheese, turkey pepperoni (lower in saturated fat than traditional pork), and herbs. I forgot to steal a bite, but the kids said it turned out delicious and it smelled heavenly!
On Friday, the Litwin 5th graders planted more buckets, this time with bell peppers and strawberries. Some of the strawberry transplants already had pale green berries growing. We’re all excited for a great June harvest.Back at Stefanik, I put up the garden signs the students painted earlier this month. Some of them are crop markers, and some of them display the many garden mottos I asked students to think up in class. To represent the many cultures that make up Chicopee today, these mottos were written in different languages. Here are some of my favorites.
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
As Chicopee students know well by now, whole grain flour is healthy for us because it has fiber, unlike enriched flour, and the vitamins and minerals it contains are retained from the whole grain itself, and therefore better for our bodies than eating enriched flour fortified with micronutrients during processing. The fiber helps slow down the digestion of sugar in our meals, putting us at a lower risk of high blood sugar. Meals with whole grains instead of enriched give us a greater feeling of satiety and a kind of slow-release dose of energy for hours, versus a quick spike in energy that leaves us hungry again soon after eating it. It's a good idea to stay away from enriched flour in general, but that doesn't mean swearing off baked favorites like pizza and cupcakes. It simply means making smart substitutions to incorporate whole grains. The following recipes for whole wheat cupcakes and pizza dough are easy and delicious ways to make our favorite foods healthier for us!
Whole wheat vanilla cupcakes (adapted from simplywhisked.com
Makes 24 cupcakes
For the April Harvest of the Month, we taste tested local potatoes from Szawlowski Farms in Hatfield, MA. The potatoes were coated with olive oil and Sazón seasoning, and then roasted to create crisp, colorful, and flavorful french fries. We get our french fries precut, but you can cut your own at home, or use Sazón to flavor home fries, baked potatoes, smashed potatoes, hash browns, and the list goes on!
To make these fries (or whatever potato shape/form floats your boat), coat your potatoes with olive oil and Sazón until potatoes take a reddish tone. Then spread the potatoes on a greased baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for approximately 25 minutes. Check the potatoes after 15 minutes and stir them around to make sure that they cook evenly and don't stick to the pan. You can add even more Sazón at this step if you want :) Then put your potatoes back in the oven and baked for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!
Students voted on the taste test by dropping a slip of paper in the bucket that corresponded to their opinion of the fries. The final results: 24 disliked, 34 liked, and 174 LOVED the fries!!
By Kelly Zimmerhanzel
Despite the unusually cold weather, we have been busy this April planting lettuce. This year, our lucky crop of third, fourth, and fifth graders at Streiber, Litwin, Bowe, and Stefanik are participating in the Salad Days program created by 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. 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.
Now that we have done the planting at Streiber, Litwin, and Bowe, we have developed a fairly efficient system to allow every student in the class to plant in just 15 minutes. As soon as the class arrives in the garden, we begin with, “Hey everyone! Today we are going to plant lettuce. You guys will come out again in June and harvest the lettuce, and then you’ll get to eat it in the cafeteria!”
After the introduction, we determine how many students there are and divide the class in half.
Then I say, “This half of the line is going to go with Ms. Molly and play a game, and the other half of the line is going to come with me and Ms. Greta to plant and then we will switch.”
When we get to the garden bed, Greta or I will explain, “We all have to fit on half of this garden bed, so get as close to your neighbors as possible, huddle together like penguins.”
Each garden bed is divided into 1x1 foot squares using string, so each student or pair of students (depending on the size of the class) gets their own square to plant.
Once everyone has a square, we say, “Now that you have your squares, I need you to loosen up the soil. So make your hand into a tractor claw or bear claw and make the soil nice and fluffy.”
At Streiber and Litwin, it was so cold that the soil was a little frozen, making this step difficult, and leading many students to exclaim, “It’s so cold! I can’t feel my hands!” Thankfully, it was warmer at Bowe. So warm, in fact, that the kids encountered a variety of earthworms in the garden beds, including one truly enormous nightcrawler. Much to my delight, most of the students were intensely interested in our earthworm friends, with many eagerly asking, “Can I touch it?” and only a few exclaiming, “Eww!”
Students at Bowe Elementary making their rows. Check out that giant nightcrawler!
When the soil is loosened, we demonstrate the next step as we explain, “I need you to take your pointer finger and draw four vertical lines in the soil, just like this, all the way from the top of your square to the bottom. Your lines don’t need to be too deep, only about as deep as the first bend in your finger.”
After the lines are drawn, we show and tell them how to do the next step, “Now, with the hand you write with, I need you to make pincers, like a lobster, with your thumb and pointer finger. With your other hand I need you to make a cup to hold the seeds. We are going to put some seeds in your cupped hand and you are going to pinch the seeds with your pincer and sprinkle them into the lines you made. If you want, you can sing a little song to remember: pinch and sprinkle, pinch pinch and sprinkle.”
Students at Litwin cupping their hands to receive their lettuce seeds.
When the kids first receive their seeds, there are always one or two who exclaim incredulously, “These seeds are so tiny! Are you sure they grow into lettuce?”
Students at Streiber Elementary pinching and sprinkling their seeds into their rows.
Once the seeds are all sprinkled in the lines, we say, “Okay, now we need to cover our seeds with soil. I need you to gently wave your hand over the surface of the soil, just like I am, and say, ‘Goodnight seeds.’”
When everyone has tucked their seeds into bed, we say, “Awesome job everyone, we are all done planting! You can stand up and if you have any soil on your hands, you can do our farmer’s clap, like this. Now, you will go over to Ms. Molly to play a game and the other group will come over and plant!”
It’s great to see how much the kids enjoy being out in the garden, getting their hands dirty, and learning about their environment and where their food comes from. Molly and I can’t wait to finish up our April planting at Stefanik when we all return from Spring Break next week! We are all hoping the weather warms up so that our lettuce will have the chance to grow!
Our very own School Food Service Director, Joanne Lennon, received the prestigious 2018 Local Hero Award from CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) for outstanding leadership in partnering with local farms.
Each year, CISA presents Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, or individuals who exemplify their mission of strengthening farms and engaging the community to build the local food economy. All award winners are applauded for their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture.
Mrs. Lennon gratefully accepted the award and dedicated it to the hard-working staff and managers in our school kitchens and farm to school program coordinators.
CISA's profile on Mrs. Lennon notes that she and her talented staff built a farm to school program in the Chicopee school district that stands as a model of how public schools can introduce food sourced from local farms into their menus and integrate farm and garden education into their classrooms. When she took over as Chicopee’s Food Service Director in 1991, the district’s lunchrooms were serving mostly convenience foods: “from the freezer to the oven,” says Mrs. Lennon. Improving the quality of the food by reintroducing scratch cooking was the first order of business, and luckily the schools were still equipped with fully functional (if outdated) kitchens and run by staff with cooking expertise.
Although Joanne’s farm to school work goes back 15 years, it remained a relatively small part of the school district’s purchasing until several years ago. “I always tried to buy a little more local every year, and then four years ago Chicopee Public Schools got a grant from the Kendall Foundation for ChicopeeFRESH, a new program that enabled us to make more connections, set up systems that could be copied by other school districts, and do this work on a larger scale. We went from 1-2% local to 15-18% local because we were able to hire someone to concentrate on this process,” says Mrs. Lennon. “It’s clear to everyone—the administration, parents, staff, students—that this work is a huge asset to the whole community, so now we have a permanent Sustainability Coordinator!”
Read the rest of CISA's profile on Mrs. Lennon and ChicopeeFRESH on their website: https://www.buylocalfood.org/2018-local-hero-awardee-joanne-lennon-chicopee-public-schools/
Today is Whole Grain Sampling Day--a date devoted to celebrating and tasting healthy whole grains! Second graders at Bowe Elementary got to participate in a special taste test to help us gather feedback about 88 Acres new kid-friendly grain and seed bar. After a brief review of whole grains (They give us energy to GO!) students were given samples of 88 Acres original dark chocolate and sea salt bar, along with samples of the new chocolate chip grain bar that contains oats, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. Students used their senses to draw comparisons between the two bars and created a Venn diagram to jot down similarities and differences. For example, they found the original bar to be more moist, and the new bar to have a stronger cinnamon smell and flavor. Then students got down to the important work of tasting! Both bars received good reviews, but a blind vote revealed that the original bar beat out the new bar in popularity by several votes. After placing their votes, students practiced writing in full sentences and using descriptive words to explain which bar they preferred and why. We plan on sharing these results with 88 Acres and are thrilled to be able to participate in the product testing phase with our students!
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
This month, the Mass Farm to School harvest of the month is dairy. As dedicated plant lovers, Kelly and I did not let this get in the way of serving kids fresh veggies. Time and again in lessons and taste tests, our students have proven smoothies to be the perfect vessel for getting in the all-important 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day--they’ll drink spinach spinach, beets, or a combination of the two so long as they’re blended into liquid form. Following that logic, we decided to test out a carrot-infused smoothie for the March taste tests. As much an homage to the cute fuzzy cows at McCray’s Farm in South Hadley where we source our local milk, this cheery, bright orange beverage is a nutrient-filled toast to the oncoming spring season. Lachanophobes rejoice: the warm spices and creamy yogurt in this recipe make the smoothie taste less like vegetable juice and more like a frozen bakery treat. The resounding cafeteria chorus of “this is good!” from Bowe kids last Wednesday is as good a testament as any to how effective smoothies are at converting veggie skeptics.
This recipe also uses high-protein yogurt and anti-inflammatory cinnamon. It’s as good for snacks as it is for a healthy breakfast. You can make it vegan by using non-dairy milk and omitting the yogurt or substituting vegan yogurt or nut butter. Try it at home!
Carrot Cake Smoothies
Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth. Add more milk to thin as needed.
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.