This service highlight was originally posted by the California Farm to School Network and was written by FoodCorps Service Member, Ashley Marquez, with San Diego Unified School District. This year Ashley is supporting the district's Harvest of the Month program by facilitating taste tests in classes and school cafeterias. Read on to learn how Ashley connects students with fresh and locally sourced produce in San Diego.
“Raise your hand if you’ve never had a green grape before?,” I asked the second graders. In an instant, nearly half of them had their hands raised. Wow was the first thought that came to mind, but it was quickly washed away with an epiphany – I am in the perfect position to make a difference in my community as a FoodCorps service member at San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).
Taste of a Lifetime
With one taste test, you can stir up infinite adventures. This is why I love to share the farmers’ stories with the students and lead taste tests to broaden their timid taste buds. Seeing the students relish in their flavorful victories and reflect on a newfound appreciation for their fresh produce is the most valuable gift that I leave with after every class. You can always hand a child a plate full of fruits and vegetables, but until you show them how much hard work it takes to grow that produce and encourage them to try something new, they are less likely to eat it.
For these reasons, our district’s Harvest of the Month in the Garden Lessons (in partnership with UCSD Center for Community Health and SDUSD’s Office of Children and Youth in Transition) are integral in developing connections between students, their food, and their local farmers. The garden lessons also feature virtual farm field trips and Harvest of the Month Taste Tests with produce purchased from our highlighted local farmer of the month.
SDUSD’s Hidden Gems
In addition to our Harvest of the Month in the Garden Lessons, SDUSD’s Farm to School Program features many additional resources, which include the following:
- Garden to Café Program
- “No-Cook” Cooking Carts
- Hydroponic Mobile Wagon (Go Green Agriculture)
- Composting Guidelines
- Monthly Farm to School Newsletters (“Subscribe” button in top left corner)
- Garden and nutrition curriculum (“Nourish” and “The Growing Classroom”)
- Other Good Food Champions Resources
We are also launching our California Thursdays pilot program (in partnership with Center for Ecoliteracy) on October 23rd, 2014 where selected elementary schools will be serving healthy, freshly prepared school meals featuring California-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as organic, free-range, California-raised chickens.
Parents, teachers, and school staff members are always surprised by the bounty of resources our district has available and the healthy changes continuously made to our school meals. Communicating all of this information to the 300 schools in our district is definitely a challenge, but reaching out to the community in every way possible shines some light on our hidden gems.
“Be the Change You Want to See in the World”
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi once said. This is the lead that I am taking as I give back to my San Diego community throughout this year of service. In order to see childhood obesity dwindle away, I will stand at the forefront of this movement to foster children’s lifelong, healthy eating habits. I look forward to meeting my brave little tasters at each and every lesson because their smiles and exclamations of “yum!” and “thank you!” motivate me to keep pushing for a healthier future.