In January, 2015, our featured local food was Winter Squash for the second year in a row, and after last year’s feedback from students, we knew that we’d need to go the extra mile to help students learn to love (or at least like) winter squash. This year, the squash came from even closer to home than last year – it was grown at Tantre Farm in Chelsea, MI, and to bring the farm even closer to us, the co-owner of Tantre Farm, Deb Lentz went into 4 classrooms at Bates Elementary to talk to students about this nutrient dense, colorful, and sweet local vegetable (or fruit, botanically speaking)!
Farmer Deb read a story called “Sophie’s Squash” in which a little girl befriends a butternut squash and learns that her beloved friend has a life cycle of its own. Deb talked about what it’s like to be a farmer, the importance of eating healthy, and how we can eat healthy with food grown in our community. Students pretended to be plants, learned the names of three different varieties of squash, and examined the squash with all of their senses.
So what happened in the cafeterias? In 5 schools, the squash was served as roasted “squash fries” that were lightly seasoned with cinnamon and a pinch of salt. At DHS, the soup was served in a lovely Winter Squash soup that staff reported was easy to make and delicious. Students still need some coaxing to get them to try it in large numbers, but one strategy that worked in the K-2 schools was to serve a small amount on students’ trays rather than offering and only serving it if students say they want it. Significantly more students tried the squash when it was served automatically in a small amount on their trays.