My main focus while serving as the MassLIFT-AmeriCorps Youth Education Coordinator at Grow Food Northampton has been to create and deliver farm-to-school workshops to local, public elementary schools. So far I have worked with over 900 students in 47 public school classes in Northampton and Easthampton. Preparing healthy food in the classroom is a main component of these lessons. Giving students the opportunity to cook nutritious snacks is a great way to encourage even the pickiest eaters to try new vegetables and foods. One teacher even said, “I have never seen a group of kids so excited about eating vegetables! It was a great experience and they talked about it for days after the workshop.”
With each lesson, I use hands-on cooking activities as a springboard to discuss concepts like local agriculture, healthy eating, or plant science. In the first lesson I planned, students made kale chips and discussed plant parts. In the second, students prepared omelets with local vegetables, and we talked about the importance of eating a nutritious breakfast. In the third, students ground whole wheat flour to make muffins and learned where wheat comes from. This month, I’m working with younger students to prepare a “rainbow salad” with fresh local ingredients of every color of the rainbow. With some of the older students, we will prepare a salad with a mix of Massachusetts-grown and non-local foods, and discuss food miles and seasonality.
Another main component of my service year has been leading field trips. Our spring and fall field trips have been the core of Grow Food Northampton’s Youth Education Programs for the past five years. In the fall, I led students on a field trip to Crimson & Clover Farm, where students experienced a working, commercial farm and harvested their own vegetables directly from the farm fields. In the spring, classes will visit our Community Garden and Giving Garden, where they will get to help our MassLIFT-AmeriCorps Land Stewardship Coordinator, Diego, prepare farm beds for the growing season and take a tour of our Community Garden, as well make a quick trip across the street to Crimson & Clover Farm to pick strawberries.
For the remainder of my service year, I am looking forward to leading our spring field trips, bringing kids’ activities to the Tuesday Market, and teaching in our Community Garden and Giving Garden this summer in collaboration with Diego. This has been a great experience for me, and the students seem to enjoy themselves too!