Kids are more likely to try new foods when they've helped grow the ingredients. Just ask Café Services Food Service Director Shelly LaClair. She serves meals made with fresh produce from the Barrington, New Hampshire Middle School kitchen garden.
Students help tend and harvest the vegetables, which are started in the school greenhouse as seedlings and transplanted to an adjoining outdoor garden in late spring. They also plant herbs on a grow cart donated by Café Services.
"Kids love knowing that the vegetables they eat at school are grown here, and they take pride in their involvement. You should see the smiles on their faces when they bring me their baskets full of produce from the garden. Once, I offered them the chance to sample a new coleslaw dish with homegrown cabbages and carrots. The response was overwhelming!"
In addition to cabbage and carrots, Shelly works with the school to grow zucchini, tomatoes and spinach. These are staples in kid-popular lunches like pizza, vegetable lasagna and applesauce-spiked coleslaw. This fall, Shelly plans to debut a new veggie burger prepared with red pepper and shredded zucchini, carrots and cheese.
Shelly purchases the produce for her meals direct from the middle school. What she can't grow at school, Shelly buys from a nearby farmer. Both practices support the local economy and farm-to-school values, priorities at Café Services.
"The more local the food, the better," says Shelly. "I know where it comes from, and it's all organic, which provides higher nutritional value to the kids. Whenever we can, we take the shortest possible route from garden to kid!"