For Immediate Release - October 04, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Celebrates Harvest for Students Week

Schools are serving locally grown and healthy fruits and vegetables to students all week

BOSTON - October 1, 2010 - Celebrating the fall harvest season, the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is taking part in the Fifth Annual Harvest for Students Week (September 27 through October 1), during which Massachusetts farms and schools are partnering to bring fresh produce to cafeterias across the Commonwealth.

Coordinated by the Amherst-based Massachusetts Farm to School Project in conjunction with DAR, Massachusetts schools, colleges and universities, Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week provides 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 health benefits of eating fresh local foods and about the Massachusetts agricultural industry," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "At a time when childhood obesity is a major problem, it's good to know that our farms are part of the solution. In the last year alone, the number of Massachusetts farms selling directly to schools jumped from 45 to 95."

Food service staff, teachers, students, and public officials from dozens of Massachusetts schools are celebrating with special meals and events to display the value of locally grown food. Some students are shucking their own corn and harvesting the apples be served in cafeteria meals, while others are planting seeds for future harvests.

"Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week celebrates the wonderful connections that are being forged between school food services and farms all over the state," said Kelly Erwin, Director of the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. "The week showcases the taste and textures of local foods for students and demonstrates that support for farm to school efforts in Massachusetts is growing by leaps and bounds."

On September 30, the Farm to School Project hosted a luncheon featuring food service directors, farmers, and others at the Brigham Hill Community Barn in North Grafton. Project officials awarded Executive Director of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Douglas Gillespie the 2010 Blue Ribbon Award, an annual prize given to an individual who demonstrates exemplary leadership and support for the farm to school movement in Massachusetts.

According to the Farm to School Project, the number of schools and school districts, public and private, in Massachusetts that preferentially purchase locally grown foods has grown from fewer than 20 to more than 250 since 2003. In the 2009-10 school year, 55 percent of Mass. public school students were enrolled in a district that served local foods. Some schools have also begun to grow food in their own gardens, send students to visit farms, and integrate nutrition and agriculture into their curricula. Massachusetts colleges and private schools have greatly increased their locally grown food offerings, as the number of them reporting they purchased local foods for student meals increased from 49 to 77 during the last school year.

With 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 and local food security, while improving the local economy and opportunities for Massachusetts farms.

The Farm to School Project - a collaborative initiative - coordinates the weeklong celebration with strong support from DAR and from the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Support for the Project also comes from the Boston Foundation, Claneil Foundation, Farm Bureau Agricultural Preservation Corporation, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation, Project Bread, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Here is how some schools plan to celebrate Harvest Week.

Acton and Acton-Boxborough Regional schools are bringing in local corn on the cob which the elementary students will husk. The husks will be saved for the compost bins that are located at a couple of the elementary schools. Students will sample tomatoes and basil from their school gardens and look forward to apples from Carlson Orchards during October.

Belchertown Public Schools will highlight local and seasonal produce on their menu including: carrot sticks, carrot coins, apples, potatoes, tomatoes, and snipped green beans. During school open houses, parents will be invited to join their children in the cafeteria to sample a variety of fresh produce.

Billerica Public Schools will continue serving locally grown fruits and vegetables from Lanni Orchards in all nine schools. Some of these seasonal products include: carrots, onions, potatoes, peppers, apples, peaches, squash, lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini.

Boston Public Schools will serve a variety of locally grown items on the menu at 11 schools across the district. These items include apples, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District will serve fresh local produce from the Sid Wainer Co. at all of their seven schools. Some local products include: Macintosh apples, green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, corn and green beans.

Cambridge Public Schools will celebrate in the school cafeterias, school libraries, CitySprouts school gardens and some classrooms. The 12 elementary schools and two high schools will feature local items on their menus. The elementary school libraries plan to make displays and feature books about food and agriculture. The CitySprouts gardens are working with school nutritionists to encourage the use of garden herbs and vegetables in the cafeteria.

Chicopee Public Schools will send students home with a fruit and veggie goody bag to share with their families. The bag will feature fresh local snacks and a postcard explaining the health benefits of the goody bag contents. Chicopee will feature fresh local fruits and vegetables on its menus throughout the school year.

Concord and Concord-Carlisle will feature a new locally grown fruit or vegetable each day of the week along with a new recipe to taste test. The week's line-up will include: apple crisp, butternut squash with cinnamon and brown sugar, cucumber dill salad, and carrots and celery with ranch dip. The food service staff will also have displays with a variety of fresh fruits available for all to take during every lunch period.

At Deerfield Elementary School the staff is planning to serve fresh salad veggies and roasted potatoes from The Kitchen Garden and other great local farms. They will also serve apples from Clarkdale Orchards and the 6th graders will be making a garden salad for lunch and will help wash apples and season potatoes.

Gateway Regional school district plans to feature a local fruit or vegetable each day and the food service staff will visit a 6th grade classroom to discuss the importance local farms.

Leverett Elementary School students and volunteer parents will be picking apples from the apple tree in the schoolyard during recess, then coring, stemming and slicing them with an old-fashioned crank machine. They'll also be digging potatoes and carrots, which will be used in the cafeteria along with produce from nearby farms.

Manchester Essex Schools have purchased and served locally grown produce from Brooksby Farm in Peabody since 2004. Chef Dennis and Farmer Pat (from Brooksby Farm) visited Memorial School on Wednesday, September 29 during lunch. Chef Dennis planned to cook up some delectable treats straight from Brooksby Farm and from the school garden. Farmer Pat planned to talk to students about what he grows and sends to the schools.

Maynard Schools will serve farm fresh vegetables and fruits every day during Harvest Week. Corn on the cob shucked by 8th grade students will be on the lunch menu, along with tomatoes, melons, apples and pears.

Mohawk Regional Schools will give a special sticker, made available by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, to each child who takes the local vegetable and/or fruit offering.

At Monson Schools, elementary students will shuck local corn to be served for lunch, and one student will take the husks home for his/her horse. Whenever possible, the Monson schools buy fruits and vegetables from Mckinstry Farm and Breezeland Orchard. Menus, posters and other decorations will promote Massachusetts Harvest Week and all students and staff will be encouraged to visit the lunchroom to sample local products.

Mount Holyoke College will feature local apples in every dining hall, along with Mapleline Farm milk, local apple cider and cider donuts. There will be a "Gracious Dinner" featuring all local produce and products, and local farms will visit the Campus Center throughout the week, including Winter Moon Farm, Warm Colors Apiary and Apex Orchards.

In the Northborough/Southborough District, apples will be available for all students from a Northborough Farm. Congressman Jim McGovern planned to visit Algonquin Regional High School on Monday, September 27 to speak to students and staff as part of the Massachusetts. Harvest Week celebration.

In the Old Rochester Regional School District and School Union #55, local produce will be served every day of the week. Students will also be given stickers and farmer trading cards, from the Massachusetts Farm to School Project and posters promoting local produce will be hung in every cafeteria.

Triton Regional School District will serve local apples and pears from Brooksby Farm.

Students from Truro Central School will deliver school garden-grown produce to the cafeteria and plan to paint pictures of their pumpkins, tomatoes and sunflowers in school art class.

Tufts University is featuring a local apple caramel dipping event, complete with various toppings, a perennial favorite with students.

The University of Massachusetts - Amherst will host a farmers' market in a different dining common every day of the week. Students and staff will have a chance to meet the farmers who produce their food and sample local roast turkey, fruit, honey and dairy products in addition to the local products normally served by UMass Dining Services.

Waltham Fields Community Farm kicked off the week on Saturday, September 25th with Waltham Farm Day. This event also coincided with the beginning of three months of fresh vegetable deliveries to the Waltham Public Schools from the Community Farm, starting with summer squash in September, lettuce in October, and carrots in November.

Westfield Public Schools will serve locally grown apples and pears from Mountain Orchards in Granville. The middle and high schools will use recipes from "The Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook" highlighting local vegetables from Czajkowski Farm in Hadley, including butternut squash, green beans, corn, zucchini and tomatoes.

Worcester Public Schools launched the week with an event at City View School on September 22. Department of Public Health Commissioner Auerbach and DAR Commissioner Soares spoke to staff and community members about healthy kids and healthy farms before sitting down to share a local foods lunch with the kindergarten students.

Congressman Jim McGovern joined students attending the Wrentham Public Schools for lunch on Monday, September 27.

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 - 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. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow us at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish. For your gateway to locally grown products, specialty foods, and fun ag-tivities go to www.mass.gov/massgrown.