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Farm to School Program Introduces Students to Fun of Healthy Eating in Massachusetts

Question: What do you get when you cross a local farm with a group of hungry, curious students? 

Answer:  A recipe for success! And an appreciation for fresh foods and healthy lifestyles.  

Somerville Public Schools (SPS), a richly diverse urban school district, has successfully embedded a Farm to School program into its K-12 Food & Nutrition Services program that has students, parents and school personnel excited.

Sure, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to launch a successful Farm to School program, but by (1) keeping it fun, and (2) making it real, the SPS quickly addressed what can often be the most challenging part of introducing healthy initiatives – getting students to willingly jump on the bandwagon.

Take corn, for example.  For those who might have grown up with corn on the cob as a regular food option, the mere thought of a sweet, steaming ear of corn for lunch in the fall is enough to set our taste buds on full alert. For many kids, though, their only exposure to corn might have been in the form of canned or frozen corn kernels, available year-round.

 So how do you introduce the value of freshness in a familiar product to a child without much cajoling? Here’s where the fun comes in. Somerville’s approach is to hold a “corn shucking day” throughout the district, so students can learn how an ear of corn from a local farm gets from a cornfield to your lunch tray, and why it might look and taste so different.

School kids shuck corn from a Deerfield, MA farm in school cafeteria.  The corn was served at lunch along with a hamburger on a whole grain bun, low fat milk and fruit. (Photo courtesy of Somerville Public Schools)

Before school starts on the designated day, K-8 students file into their school cafeterias for a nutritious breakfast and a chance to try their hands at shucking a few ears of corn. It’s a community-wide affair with teachers, parents/guardians, school and district administrators including the Superintendent, and even the Mayor, joining in the fun.

When lunch rolls around that afternoon, more than a few students will be heard “identifying” a particular ear of corn they might have shucked that morning that has now made its way onto a schoolmate’s plate as part of a healthy meal. The result is a proud and willing food adventurer eager to enjoy a meal in which they had a hand preparing.

So why are Somerville students excited about eating healthy?  Because they’ve learned that the journey to healthy eating can be as much fun as the final destination.

See other blog posts in this series: