You can lead a kid to the salad bar, but how do you get him or her to actually eat from it? This question doesn’t just plague parents. It also puzzles the educators responsible for feeding children at schools around the country.
The Baltimore City School System is committed to serving healthy food — that kids will actually eat — in all of their schools. Unlimited fresh fruit and veggies are served daily and there’s a salad at every lunch, whether it’s crafted at a salad bar or prepared ahead of time. They have successfully eliminated styrofoam from their lunchrooms. And all cafeteria staff undergoes wellness training.
The city schools food and nutrition team is also busy planting the seeds for healthy eating with some creativity, and a great big farm (33 acres to be exact!) just outside of the city in Catonsville. Great Kids Farm has been part of the school district for the past decade. At one time, its purpose was to grow food to serve in school salad bars. These days the focus has changed. While the farms don’t grow the veggies that show up on the weekly lunch line (except during Maryland Homegrown Week), the farm does have play a role as an educational space.
The plan is to get every 2nd grader in Baltimore city schools (all 95 classes!) out to the farm. This field trip is designed to compliment the 2nd grade science curriculum on “What Do Plants Need.” Farm-to-school educators lead students through a day on the farm at four different stations. Students design an insect hotel to learn about bee pollination, check out the compost bin, and plant some seeds. Then, during farm-a-palooza, they feast on a pizza loaded with veggies grown on the farm. Who doesn’t want to eat broccoli or roasted peppers and onions when they are piled on top of a cheesy pie? Everyone might not love it, but all are encouraged to try.
What’s the ultimate goal? “We hope that seeing the behind-the-scenes magic will help kids make healthy choices at lunch…and actually eat the fruit that they take from the lunch line,” explains Cynthia Shea, Manager of Farm to School Operations for Baltimore City Schools. The more exposure children have to gardening and tasting new foods, including healthy fruits and vegetables, the more likely they are to make healthy choices. This not only impacts their health but also reduces food waste, making it a win for the kids and the environment.
Images provided by Great Kids Farm