Martha Folk and Bernadette Dryden are co-leaders of Slow Food Katy Trail, the local chapter of an international organization committed to improving the way real food is grown, prepared and shared. This was first published on their blog.
Since 2008, Slow Food Katy Trail has introduced local and seasonal food to children at a Columbia elementary school. On Sept. 12, we begin the fifth year of our popular Harvest-of-the-Month sessions with third-graders at a new school — Benton Elementary at 1410 Hinkson Ave.
Each month of the school year we decide on a seasonal food and locate a local farmer who produces it, then ask him or her to bring the produce or product to the school on a particular day. It may be tomatoes, green beans, garlic, sweet potatoes, popcorn, honey, eggs, wheat and so forth. The farmer discusses life on the farm with the children and talks specifically about how that month’s harvest is produced. During the month in the classroom, teachers try to integrate the food into different areas of the curricula such as history, art and science.
Slow Food volunteer cooks and occasionally local chefs come to the school each month, in conjunction with the farmers' visits, to turn the food into delicious and nutritious treats for the children. All the students participate in the cooking. They have steamed fresh green beans picked that very day; they have made applesauce, squash puree, garlic butter and tomato salsa. They have removed popcorn from the cob and popped it, and ground wheat berries into flour and made pancakes with it.
In every case, children have tried new foods and delighted in discovering new tastes, experiencing freshness and creating something themselves which is a joy to eat and to share.
Also, as part of Harvest-of-the-Month, we sponsor a field trip for the participating classes to a local farm in the spring. It is one thing for a farmer to come to the school and show slides and talk, but quite another thing for the children to actually pick the fresh strawberries or lettuces, to see (and smell!) the turkeys strutting in their pens, to feed the goats or even make cheese. Also, for these field trips, we invite a local chef (Craig Cyr of the Wine Cellar & Bistro) to prepare what the children harvest and serve a delicious lunch at long tables with, as the children say, real plates and forks.
To volunteer for a Harvest-of-the-Month session or donate money to help continue the program in the area's elementary schools, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.