Celebrating “Harvest of the Month” at Boulder Elementary

All throughout November, Boulder Elementary celebrated apples for the “Harvest of the Month” program by partaking in a wide variety of activities. Montana’s “Harvest of the Month” program promotes a different Montana-grown food every month in K-12 schools throughout the state. The program’s goal is to encourage healthy food choices by expanding student’s knowledge of seasonal/local food while also supporting Montana farmers.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, the 21st Century Community Learning Center leads an after school program at Boulder Elementary where students are welcomed to participate in fun and stimulating activities for the later part of the afternoon. My role in the program varies with the seasons and since the garden is currently covered in snow, I lead a cooking club.  This club is a great way to get kids excited about eating healthy and delicious food while also developing their cooking skills.

IMG_9603 - CopySince November’s Harvest of the Month item was apples we decided to go all out! For every single cooking club session we had, the recipe always included apples. You’d think that by the end of the month, the kids would be sick of apples, but if anything they were just asking for more! Throughout the month we prepared some yummy breakfast items like sweet potato and apple pancakes and apple pie smoothies. The kindergarten and first grade students were able to incorporate art with their healthy eating by making Scary Apple Mouths and Apple Turkeys.

IMG_9682What is also great about cooking club is how the students are exposed to new food items. One day we prepared Cranberry Apple Quinoa muffins, which proved to be educational; most of the students had never seen the word “quinoa” let alone tried it. Another day we got to learn about traditional foods in different countries, this particular day was France, so I taught the kids how to make crêpes and we made sure to stuff them full with locally grown apples. For me, one of the many things that I love so much about Cooking Club is showing the kids how diverse food can be!

IMG_9675Another side of my FoodCorps service is teaching in the classroom, which I really enjoy. Every month, I make a special “Harvest of the Month” trip to each class for a lesson and a cooking activity. For November, the 4th graders and I examined the lifecycle of an apple tree and how bees play a critical role in apple production. In 6th grade, we explored the long history of apples, looking at where they originated and how they travelled to America over many, many years. For the cooking activity, the “Apple Pie Smoothie” proved to be a school-wide favorite, many “Mmmmhmmms”, “Yums” and “Ms. Briana, this smoothie is delicious!” were exclaimed, of course, being very welcoming comments to my ears.

IMG_9606Lisa Giulio, Boulder’s Food Service Director, is also a “Harvest of the Month” enthusiast. She is dedicated to serving our students healthy food and finds that the program is a great way to give students opportunities to taste new foods and a unique way to support our local economy. During November, we prepared an “Apple Coleslaw” which featured Honeycrisp apples grown in the Flathead region and were distributed by the “Western Montana Growers Cooperative”, whom our school sources from regularly. Earlier in the month, the students participated in a “Taste Test” (an activity where students sample the recipe and vote whether they “like it”, “love it”, or “tried it”) of the apple coleslaw, so by the time we served the slaw as a full menu item, the students were familiar and excited about the dish, often times coming back for seconds!

The “Harvest of the Month” program has proven to be not only fun and engaging but also an effective way for students to learn about where and how their food grows, as well as the importance of sourcing locally. At Boulder Elementary, the “Harvest of the Month” program has continued to gain more participation and enthusiasm with every month that comes and I’m sure will only continue to on in the future.

This post was written by Briana Sullivan, our fantastic FoodCorps member in Boulder, MT.