Above, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, has lunch at Clarksburg School. Left, farmer Sharron Wyrrick, left, and cafeteria supervisor Susan Berger hand out pumpkin bread and stickers.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg School is planting roots for healthy living and a deeper understanding about food for its pupils.
The school started its first garden last spring, which has produced cucumbers and tomatoes for the salad bar. It's working on healthy lifestyles through Mass in Motion, a state Department of Public Health initiative, and developing a nutrition plan to align with the state's new school nutrition policies.
Some of those initiatives came together this week as part of the state's Harvest for Students Week, which included inviting state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and local produce farmer Sharon Wyrrick for lunch.
Wyrrick, of the new Many Forks Farm, also met with Grades kindergarten through 2 last week to tell them about farming and show off some of her pumpkins and spaghetti squash — both of which were served Tuesday.
"It's a great opportunity to utilize this week as a foot in the door to
Mass in Motion, which is designed to fight the obesity epidemic, is also helping clear a path in the woods for hiking.
Wyrrick's pumpkins were turned into bread by cafeteria supervisor Susan Berger. The seeds were roasted and spaghetti squash was cooked up with the choice of butter or marinara sauce.
"I think it's wonderful. I think the kids as young as they are very excited," said Berger. "They get it. They know what's going on and we're very happy to see them this interested in local fresh food."
Wyrrick, also a filmmaker who has documented community supported agriculture in the region, said it would be nice to see more connection between schools and local farming but acknowledged there were challenges in federal guidelines, budgetary issues and growing seasons.
"It's definitely just really connecting to where food comes from and fresh food," she said. "I mean everyone's very aware of health problems, good healthy food can certainly help."
Cariddi deemed the pumpkin bread "to die for" after sitting down for lunch with the children.
"I'm really impressed with what I've seen today," she said. "I was over at Plunkett School [in Adams] and they have a wonderful snack program. ... All of these items are in many cases new introductions to children that haven't been able to have these kinds of vegetables — like spaghetti squash.
"I see that these grant monies are hard at work in our local schools and I'll be hard at work to keep them funded."
Principal Linda Reardon said the school has set up a committee of staff, faculty, parents, community members and others to help develop ways to meet the new state nutrition and health guidelines. Its first meeting is next week.
"We have the benchmarks and the criteria from the [state] mandates but it's also developing a plan," said Reardon. "They recommend you don't use food for celebrations ... so we have to come up with a different way of thinking about food."
The school garden was a success in its first year, although she and a few others took turns keeping it up during the summer.
"The children love working in the garden," she said. "It's a whole curriculum just by having the garden out there."
Only a few grades have initially participated as it fits into their curriculum, but it's a fledgling initiative the school is hoping to grow, said Reardon. For example, setting up composting or using later seasonal produce, such as squashes, so the children have more time in the garden.
She hopes the initiatives instill basic understanding about healthy eating and lifestyles that will stay with the children as they grow older.
"It's just to get them thinking more about where food comes from and the nutrition around it," said Reardon. "Some of them had no idea ... They thought you go to the supermarket to get vegetables. We hope this develops a love of gardening and connecting with the Earth."
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