Elementary students in Weyauwega-Fremont had the opportunity to try fresh, locally grown produce each Friday of the 2010-11 school year.
Sweet potatoes, rutabaga, cranberries and carrots, as well as fresh cheese curds, made their way in colorful buckets to each classroom, every Friday.
Many times, students did not know what they were eating prior to tasting it. Often, they were surprised by the flavors.
These snacks were augmented by Americorps volunteer Brenda Thyssen leading classroom demonstrations that incorporated local food into the lesson.
Both of these programs are continuing this year, thanks to new grant funding awarded to the Waupaca County UW-Extension office.
As an added bonus, fourth graders listened to Americorps volunteer Andy Ceranske discuss seed planting, soil content, composting and plant growth.
They planted pumpkin seeds in the classroom and then took them to Thyssen’s Triple B Farm in late May. In early October, the students returned to the farm to reap their harvest.
Students also had the opportunity to taste and compare locally grown apples, make a pumpkin craft and play a pumpkin game with service-learning students from Little Wolf High School.
Host farmer Mike Thyssen hoisted a pumpkin 65 feet into the air, only then to release it, causing excitement by the viewers, as well as a splat of pumpkin innards.
Everyone took a pumpkin home, with the plan for the rest of the pumpkins to be sold to raise funds for the program.
Plans called for Brenda Thyssen to complete the year-long experience with a cooking lesson back in the classroom that included pumpkins and apples.
Research shows that children eat healthier when they have more knowledge about the food they eat.
When they are involved in the food preparation process, they are more likely to eat the food that they help prepare.
The Farm to School program provides both of these experiences to students.