A Home-Cooked Feast Celebrating Farm to School

They shredded carrots for spring rolls, diced chicken for stir-frys, and mashed chickpeas for hummus dips.

Chefs?

No! Teachers!

The teachers (from Chittenden South Supervisory Union), were participating in a recent Vermont FEED professional development course. And it was all about the food.

Teachers were exploring how to integrate food, farming, and nutrition lessons into their curriculum, so preparing their own snacks and meals to meet USDA nutritional guidelines was a natural each Wednesday afternoon when they met at Shelburne Community School.

With full bellies, the twelve educators from elementary, middle, and high school classrooms were ready to learn. (Just like kids!) Each week they explored a different topic. For example:

  • What’s the relationship between kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower? (They’re cultivated versions of the same species!) The teachers arranged each of these vegetables as a single “monster plant” to explain the different plant parts we eat.
  • How do you make sense of the US and global food systems? Small groups tackled that question by using current articles [link to them?] to map out how a particular food gets to our plates (e.g. agriculture, labor, distribution). They then used those articles to practice “arguing from evidence” (a sought after Common Core skill for their students) to make claims about what should be considered when making decisions about what to serve our students for school lunch.
  • Become an “expert” on one food science mystery. (What is actually happening to an egg as it boils? What are the properties of gelatin? What is the science behind making ice cream?)
  • Teachers shared their answers to these last questions over dinner at a final gathering at a retreat house on Shelburne Farms overlooking fields and the shoreline of Lake Champlain. For a course that was all about food, a home-cooked feast was the obvious focus of the evening!

The group selected a jazzy meal to make together, one that could actually be served in their school cafeteria: A vegetarian falafel and pita dish with dips and vegetables, along with some exotic and culturally appropriate fruits: figs and pomegranate that could be introduced in a taste test in classes beforehand.

The aromas of this Middle Eastern dish filled the kitchen as Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafters (VBC) led the teachers through preparing the meal. Joe founded VBC in part to provide local and organic foods to schools at an affordable price, and the group used VBC’s own falafel mix that is served in schools throughout the state.

Shelburne Community School Food Service Director Becky Mashak joined the teachers to learn alongside them and to share her perspective as a school nutrition professional. Explaining the science of making ice cream helped queue up the dessert course! 

One teacher noted in the end that the course “was so enjoyable and well thought out…I looked forward to every class!”

Vermont FEED has two more upcoming courses being run in partnership with regional Farm to School organizations in Bennington County and the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire coming up this winter and spring. For more information, keep checking their events calendar and sign up for the VT-FEED bimonthly eNewsletters!

Ryan Morra

Posted by Ryan Morra

January 13, 2017

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