For Immediate Release - September 18, 2009

Patrick-Murray Administration Celebrates "Massachusetts Harvest for Students" Week

Locally grown fruits and vegetables make student meals healthier, tastier

BOSTON - A cornucopia of fresh, locally grown food will be pouring into school cafeterias September 21 to 25 as the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) celebrates the annual Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week.

During Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week, which is coordinated by the Amherst-based Massachusetts Farm to School Project in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), Massachusetts schools, colleges and universities from across the state provide students with fresh, nutritious meals prepared with foods produced on Massachusetts farms.

"Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week is an excellent way to teach future generations about the benefits of local eating and the Massachusetts agriculture industry," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "For the more than 60 Massachusetts family farms providing their products directly to schools, the farm-to-school connection is generating approximately $800,000 in additional revenue each year."

"Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week celebrates nutritious local food and stronger local economies," said Kelly Erwin, manager of the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. "The Week showcases our schools' success in creating healthier choices and a greater awareness of the taste and textures of local foods for students."

Food service staff, teachers, students, and public officials from dozens of Massachusetts schools will celebrate with special meals and events to display the value of locally grown food. Many students will shuck their own corn, and harvest the apples that will be served in cafeteria meals, while others will plant seeds for future harvests.

The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation will host a luncheon at their Quincy facility on Tuesday Sept. 22, when Administrator of Nutrition for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Kathleen Millett will be awarded the 2009 Blue Ribbon Award, an annual prize given to an individual who demonstrates exemplary leadership and support for the farm-to-school movement in Massachusetts.

The number of public school districts in Massachusetts that purchase locally grown foods grew from fewer than ten to more than 200 since 2003. In the 2008-09 school year, 63 percent of students enrolled in public schools were in a district that served local foods. Massachusetts colleges and private schools have also greatly increased their locally grown food offerings, as 49 schools purchased local foods for student meals during the last school year.

With more studies indicating that students served fresh, locally grown items tend to eat significantly more fruits and vegetables, the farm-to-school connection is making a positive difference at a time of concern about childhood obesity, while simultaneously improving the local economy, local food security and opportunities for Massachusetts farms.

The Massachusetts Farm to School Project - an initiative sponsored by the DAR and the Farm Bureau Agricultural Preservation Corporation - coordinates the weeklong celebration with help from the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts and support from the Boston Foundation, Project Bread, and the Whole Foods Market of Hadley.

The DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate, and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production


Activities planned during Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week include:

The menu at Abbey Kelley Foster Charter Public High School in Worcester features roasted vegetables on Tuesday, orchard fruit on Wednesday, farm fresh tomatoes on Thursday and stuffed peppers on Friday.

Acton-Boxborough Regional School District will serve fresh stir-fry vegetables and students will husk and enjoy fresh corn on the cob.

In the Auburn and Leicester Public School Districts, school officials have planned a local harvest menu featuring baked potatoes, fresh apples, corn, green beans, cucumbers, and fresh vegetable stir-fry.

Belchertown Public Schools are highlighting local produce including apples from Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown, and carrots, potatoes, and snipped green beans from Czajkowski Farm in Hadley.

Belmont Public Schools will serve local foods all week. The community will participate in a town-wide reading and discussion of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

In Boston, ten public schools will serve fresh, Massachusetts-grown corn on the cob, zucchini and apples, and will feature lunch table discussions between students and their principals about healthy eating and good nutrition. On Tuesday, September 22, the Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools and other school officials will hold a Mass Harvest for Students Week school lunch at the South Boston Educational Complex to highlight the locally grown fare.

Cambridge Public Schools will serve locally grown apples and peaches throughout the Week. The cafeterias will also serve daily local food specials, including "Marie's Haitian Soup," a vegetarian recipe developed by one of the food service employees, fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella salads, jumbo tacos with Massachusetts-grown tomatoes, as well as lots of local pickles. Cambridge will also kick off the week at the first annual Urban Agriculture Fair in Harvard Square on Sunday September 20. School chef Vin Connelly will provide a cooking demo and the Tasty Choices food service program will talk to residents about the farm-to-school program and healthy food in schools. All 13 Cambridge public schools will have at least two local items on the menu every day, and will provide educational flyers about the local food and the farm in each cafeteria.

Three chefs representing schools in Groton are co-sponsoring a monthly community dinner with local growers.

A local organization called Fertile Ground will help Hampshire Regional High School students and cafeteria staff implement an interactive student-developed survey that includes a taste tests of local seasonal vegetables. Student leaders will ask their peers what they like best about school lunch, and get feedback on changes they would like to see regarding healthy food options.

North Quabbin Area - On Monday, September 21, the Seeds of Solidarity Education Center staff will travel to seven North Quabbin area schools for the second annual "Plant Out!" to plant 2009 seeds. Staff will work with students to plant their school gardens with a variety of fall crops.

Lincoln Public Schools will feature local produce every day at their 5-A-Day Bar including, cider, peaches, and multiple varieties of apples.

Chicopee Public Schools will send students home with a fruit and veggie goody bag to share with their families on Friday, September 25. The bag will feature fresh local snacks and a postcard that explains the health benefits of goody bag contents.

Clark University in Worcester will host a celebration for the food service directors, farmers, and public policymakers who make it possible for Massachusetts students to eat healthy local foods. On Friday, September 25, State Senator Michael Moore will present "Get Fresh, Get Local in Worcester - Healthier Students and a Healthier Economy" during a luncheon featuring local Massachusetts foods.

Lexington - On Tuesday, September 22, the Kids Cooking Green program will take 25 5th grade students to a farmers market for a field trip. Students will meet the farmers, taste local produce and look for menu ideas to plan an upcoming dinner they will cook at school for family and friends.

Maynard will serve local farm products on the lunch menu all week. A class of fifth graders will shuck corn when corn on the cob is on the lunch menu. The corn husks will be recycled and used by a teacher who raises pigs.

Marblehead Community Charter Public School features a week-long celebration of fresh and local fruits and vegetables on its lunch menu from local farms and harvested from the school's own vegetable garden planted last spring.

Sunderland Public School will hold a school-wide corn husking and a lunch of fresh corn on the cob.

Leverett Elementary School will celebrate a new salad bar that serves local foods from Swartz Farm and Joseph Czajkowski Farm. During a special recess, students will harvest summer crops from the school garden, including nasturtiums for their salad bar. They'll also put the garden to bed for the winter and harvest apples from their school's trees. The cafeteria staff will make a hot apple crisp for dessert on Wednesday, September 24.

UMass Amherst will celebrate Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week by hosting John Ash, nationally renowned wine/food educator, restaurateur, and cookbook author at dinner Wednesday, September 23 at Berkshire Dining Commons. Chef Ash will also feature his signature recipes utilizing local products at Worcester Dining Commons Thursday, September 24. Local farmers will be on hand to meet students and offer samples throughout the Week. The University has announced a goal of increasing usage of local produce to 27 percent this year. Locally raised turkey, fresh apples, cider, honey, and assorted vegetables are some of the offerings.

Williamsburg Elementary School and Fertile Ground, a local organization, will launch a program to encourage intergenerational partnerships with farmers from the Williamsburg Grange and members of the Council on Aging. The aim is to cultivate a food knowledge exchange between seniors and elementary school children through workshops, site visits, and a student built senior-accessible garden.

Wrentham and Plainville Schools - Representative Richard Ross will lunch with students and members of the school committee. The cafeteria will serve fresh, locally-grown Paula Red apples, butternut Squash, lemon zest broccoli and garden tomatoes. During an open house, there will be a light supper of fresh basil and tomato pizzas and Paula Red apples for parents.

Ware Public Schools will serve fresh vegetables from McKinstry's Market Garden in Chicopee and apples from Breezeland Orchards in Warren all week. The cafeteria will also feature cabbage from the school district's garden to make soup and coleslaw.

Quaboag Regional School District will be feature local farm fresh vegetables from Hampshire and Worcester County producers for each meal served in the district.

Westfield Public Schools will serve local fruits and vegetables on the menu all week.

Massachusetts Farm to School is a collaborative project sustained by advocates of local agriculture and child nutrition. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/agr/markets/Farm_to_school/.