The has taken nourishing its students to the next level.
Through its wellness program, the district was able to procure a $6,500 Farm to School grant, received last July. With this grant, the district has been able to make unprecedented headway in promoting nutrition and healthy choices among its student body.
According to the district’s director of food services, Cindy Van Druff, students were first introduced to new kinds of fruits and vegetables in the classroom.
“And we showed them foods with roots on them, like lettuces and onions,” Van Druff said.
Such classroom demonstrations were followed up throughout the school year by offering the students the new fruits and vegetables on the cafeteria menu, which the district labled as “Try-Its.”
According to Van Druff, students were eager to include more vegetables and fruits with their lunches, due to the education efforts.
The school district also introduced students to what Van Druff calls “under-served vegetables,” including bok choy and Kohlrabi, which is a kind of turnip.
By teaching students healthy eating options, the district was able to show them that food doesn’t originate from the local grocer’s freezer.
Wanting to make a fine point on the subject, the school district has also created an 18-by-110-foot sustainable garden, located behind the Primary School.
The garden, which contains the food introduced to the students throughout the school year, along with other offerings, was begun at the end of the school year.
“It was kind of frustrating at first, when we were on our hands and knees digging out the soil in 100-degree heat,” Van Druff said. “I really have a greater understanding and appreciation of what the farmers have to go through.”
Most of the hundreds of vegetables grown in the garden were first planted in egg cartons by the students during the winter months. Students took special care of the growing plants on classroom windowsills and under heat lamps, all the while learning the science behind food production.
Several other vegetables, starter plants, plant plugs and seeds, including onions and basil, were donated by Bucks County-based farm None Such Farms.
Cultivating and harvesting the garden has now become a school community project, with extended school year students, district staff and community helper trustees all pitching in to help the garden grow.
“It’s fun working with the kids, just to see their eyes light up as they’re learning things about the garden,” Emilie Springfield Stone, a garden helper trustee, said. “Everything in here is just a learning process.”
Springfield Stone, who has children in the school district, is one of about 15 garden helpers from the community, helping the students and staff to weed, water and harvest the garden.
Springfield Stone said that the garden is a place for discovery, as rich smells and lush sights capture students' imagination.
When the students return for the upcoming school year, the harvest from the garden will be used in the various lunch options.
“It will also help them understand how certain flavors gets into the foods that they eat,” Van Druff said, adding that the pesto made from the garden's produce may be used in the spaghetti sauce, or the green beans in their salads.
The Upper Moreland School District garden is open to the public from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, through August. Helpers are welcome.
Click the link for more on the school district’s wellness program.
For more on the story, please click on the above video.