‘Farm to School Week’ Adds Locally Grown Food to School Lunches and Brings the Classroom to the Farm

Post date: Oct 02, 2015 7:52:43 PM

The annual fall ‘Farm to School Week’ in the Wells-Ogunquit CSD (WOCSD) wrapped up this year on September 25th. Begun modestly in 2005, it is a week set aside for learning about good nutrition and experiencing locally grown food at school lunchtime. But that is not the whole story.

Prior to this week, hundreds of pounds of locally grown food was either harvested directly by students or purchased by the District’s Nutrition Services from local farms; all of which to be consumed during the following months in lunches prepared in the District’s three cafeterias.

Director of Nutrition Services, Tyler Goodwin believes that increasing portions of fresh fruits and vegetables from area farms added into the daily menus is taking students in a healthier direction by reinforcing healthy eating habits. Goodwin admits buying locally is slightly costlier than buying food elsewhere but he believes the long range health benefits far outweigh any added expense plus it is beneficial for the local economy.

The concept of school lunch programs buying locally is not new to school districts in Maine but involving students directly in the harvest is unique. Since 2009 in weeks leading up to Farm to School Week, hundreds of volunteer 4th and 7th grade students and a handful of staff have participated in the actual harvest of the crops grown for the District at Spiller Farm in Wells.

Each year Spiller Farm sets aside certain growing areas for the WOCSD. The farm grows the food but it is harvested in large part by these students. This year students traveled by bus to the farm and picked 1,200 lbs. of potatoes, 1000 lbs. of apples and over 400 lbs. of green beans. This product was then delivered to Wells Junior High School for processing by students and Nutritional Services staff. Green beans, for example, are snipped, cut, washed, steamed, boxed and frozen all in a 24 hour period, enough stored for the entire school year. Corn, not harvested by students, still needs to be shucked and cut. All of this takes time and effort but is nonetheless a learning experience for kids who have never done this type of work much less made the connection between the grocery store shelf and the farm.

The cooperation between Anna and Bill Spiller of Spiller Farm with the WOCSD is in its sixth year. Food grown on Spiller Farm is sold to the District at a significant discount. In an interview in 2014 Bill Spiller summed up one of the important benefits of the cooperative effort between school and farm best. “I think it’s good to give kids an idea of where their food really comes from,” said Spiller

Wells Elementary School teacher Melissa Stapleton with students and just one of the many boxes of apples picked at Spiller Farm on September 18th.

WES students Katarina (left) and Drea carrying potatoes that they have picked for delivery to Wells Junior High School on September 18th. Potatoes were initially dug out of the ground that day by Bill Spiller with his tractor and “digger.”

Bill Spiller of Spiller Farm giving students a quick lesson in picking and handling apples.