DENTON — Caroline County Public Schools participated in Maryland’s Farm to School Week, Sept. 23 through Sept. 27, serving fresh produce from local grower Clayton Farms.
“Farm to Schools Week was a tremendous success this school year. The opportunity for the students to indulge in local produce was a delectable adventure, as well as a tremendous educational experience,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Khalid Mumin. “For example, local fruits, vegetables and meats were featured, which left the serving lines expeditiously, and students learned about the exact location of the farms, methods of production, sales, economic impact and how maintaining a healthy farm fresh diet can promote healthy living and lifestyles.”
The students and staff enjoyed tomato salad, corn on the cob, sliced cucumbers, watermelon and different colors of peppers. The students in secondary schools were able to taste test bison burgers from S.B. Farms in Hurlock.
“Apple Annie” visited all five elementary schools to draw attention to the connection between healthy food and the local farms that grow it. Gov. Martin O’Malley officially designated Sept. 23-27 as Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week. This is the sixth year for the event.
“It is vital that we help our children make the connection between the agriculture industry and what we eat daily. Buying locally is key to ensuring a smart, green and growing future for Maryland families. It preserves farmland, protects the environment, bolsters local economies and provides wholesome, nutritious, great-tasting fresh food,” said O’Malley. “We are extremely encouraged that all 24 of our public school systems and some private schools are participating in this important, educational program.”
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance underscored the importance of Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week and agricultural education.
“This year we have nearly 50 farmers participating in the program. Our goal is to see more local, fresh food in school lunches, not only to improve childhood health but also to help them learn about the importance of our farms to our environment and daily lives,” Hance said. “Homegrown School Lunch Week not only provides effective learning activities, it’s also a lot of fun for students and other participants.”
“Good nutrition is key to academic excellence. During Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week, we acknowledge the cafeteria as a classroom, where school meals offer students fresh, healthful and local meals daily,” said State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lillian Lowery.
Mumin, Assistant Superintendents Tina Brown and Milton Nagel, Board of Education members Tolbert Rowe and George Abner, Caroline Career and Technology Center Principal Gene Smith, Caroline County Commissioner Larry Porter and Coordinator of Food Services Beth Brewster were joined by Karen Fedor of the Maryland Department of Agriculture for lunch in the cafeteria at North Caroline High School. Fedor toured the Caroline Career and Technology Center to speak with the culinary arts and agriculture teachers about combining classes so the students could see the direct correlation and movement of the hospitality industry from farm to fork.
The group enjoyed a lunch prepared by Chef David Murray, a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America located in Hyde Park, N.Y., and former student of the CCTC culinary program and graduate of North Caroline High School. The menu consisted of grilled watermelon salad, bison burgers, sautéed corn and peppers and roasted red potato salad, using all local products.
“It is important as a community that we think about sustainability and how lucky we are to live in a community filled with agriculture,” Murray said. “We all should strive to buy locally from a nutrition and quality standpoint, and to support our farmers. Our students need to know where their food comes from and to learn healthy eating behaviors. What better way than farm to tray in our school system.”
The Homegrown School Lunch Week, an element of the Jane Lawton Farm to School Program, was created during the 2008 session of the Maryland General Assembly, when a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jamie Raskin and state Del. Sheila Hixson of Montgomery County was signed into law by O’Malley in May 2008.
For more information about Maryland’s Farm to School program, including educational materials, menus, places to find local products, brief video sound book with photos and interviews and much more for parents, teachers and food service staff, visit www.marylandfarmtoschool.org.
For information on the school meals programs, visit www.eatsmartmaryland.org. More on the benefits of buying local is available online. More details about activities in other counties are available online at www.marylandfarmtoschool.org.