At Salt Spring Elementary (SSE), we celebrated National Farm-to-School Month with an all-school, community Harvest Lunch. Here’s how it happened.
Last June kindergartners planted turban squash seeds donated by Salt Spring Seeds and over the summer, Camp Collosal participants watered and cared for the Hillside Garden, snacking on what was ripe and harvesting some of the produce for their kids’ cooking class. SSE Students harvested the squash in September to enter in the Fall Fair and then it was kept in a cool garage. The last week of October, we kicked it into high gear for the Halloween Harvest Lunch.
With all the excitement and costumes at school for the holiday, teachers say it’s a good day for active engagement of students like this. Plus, significant research has shown that students introduced to diverse vegetables in school make healthier food choices later in life. Also, spending time growing foods has been shown to increase children’s physical and mental health with added benefits to academic, social, and real-life skills.
The date was set and a sign-up sheet hung in the staff room so that every class signed up for some part of the event. A grant from Island Savings Community Endowment covered some of the event coordination time. The menu was pumpkin (squash) soup, applesauce, and garden-herb biscuits. Chef Wysteria Berkhow created the soup recipe for us. Thirteen volunteer parents signed up to help over the course of the week. We ordered compostable cutlery and bowls, then Salt Spring Kitchen Co. donated hundreds of jars to be used for serving applesauce and Hastings House lent us their giant immersion blender and big pots.
On Monday, one class walked to Chorus Frog Farm to gather extra squashes for the big pumpkin soup. On Tuesday, two classes harvested parsley and herbs from the school gardens, smelled and learned their names and characteristics, and chopped them finely to be baked into the biscuits. Parents brought in bags of apples from their trees. One class made apple fruit leather. Extra squash and pumpkins were sourced from Bon Acres Farm and Thrifty Foods (thank you Thrifty’s!), and on Wednesday, students learned hands-on about the many different varieties and cleaned out the seeds, then later scooped the roasted squashes to prepare for soup. Thursday, volunteer chefs Milly Sinclair and Erin Williams created two ginormous pots of soup. Parent Anna Pugh brought ingredients and worked with parent volunteers helping several classes to bake hundreds of herbed biscuits, and others helped classes make applesauce. The ELF Strongstart program made tiny bouquets to decorate, and other students helped set up the lunch, serve others, and clean up afterwards, composting and washing all the dirty dishware.
At noon, over 200 people enjoyed a beautiful meal outdoors! On top of the 13 volunteers, at least 30 family and community members, including School District administration, attended the sunny lunch, some in costume, with savoury hot soup served under colourful autumn oaks and maples.