The D.C. Farm to School Network hosted its third annual Strawberries and Salad Greens Day yesterday. Fresh, locally grown produce was served at dozens of schools throughout Washington, D.C.
I had the pleasure of helping to run a “Where Food Comes From” table in the cafeteria at a charter school in Northeast D.C.
Equipped with lettuce seedlings, strawberry plants, seasonality charts, a handful of trivia, and of course, stickers, two school volunteers and I attempted to explain local food to K-8 graders.
I was surprised by the fact that most of the students, even the older ones, had never heard of the term “locally grown.” Thankfully, I was able to hold their attention (with the promise of a sticker,) so that the students could point to local farms on a map of D.C. and understand that the local food comes from farms not too far away.
I was almost sure that the students would think of fresh fruits and veggies as “icky,” and not find much value in our presentation. I was happily surprised to find that the students were rushing the table, begging for stickers and wanting to learn about how the plants on the table had developed into actual lettuce and strawberries.
One school volunteer distributed sliced strawberries to the students as they ate their lunch, and they were thrilled by the sweet taste. When I asked if they ate strawberries often, I was a little disheartened to hear that many of them regularly did; but only in the form of McDonald’s Strawberry-Banana Smoothies. However, the students were excited and eager to eat the plain strawberries, no need for added sugar or animal products.
Overall, it was an encouraging day for me, as a healthy food advocate. The students were fascinated with the trivia, and they were able to understand a few benefits of locally-grown produce. I can only hope that their enthusiasm can uphold against the pressure of T.V. commercials, the cost of healthy food, and the overall convenience of many unhealthy food options.
At least these students will be a little more aware of the food options available to them as consumers, and they will also know (approximately) how many seeds are on the outside of the strawberry (200).