I think everyone in Connecticut anticipates the arrival of June. Although summer doesn’t start until the 21st, once June hits, there’s a new energy that fills the air. It’s a combination of the sunny days, the anticipation of summer vacation, field days, class picnics, and outdoor field trips that bring excitement to students and teachers alike in June. One thing that I have always loved about June (and I know I’m not alone in this one) is the strawberries! Strawberries- such a fan favorite for kids and adults alike. They’re sweet, they’re juicy, you can pick them yourself, and they’re good for you! And, for our kids in Vernon, they are a huge treat, because they are hard to come by.
When it comes to school food, fruits like apples, oranges, or pears often keep better, and are therefore served the majority of the time. But, once in a while, especially towards the end of school, it can be worth the extra effort to surprise the students with something like strawberries. With the help of Chris Avtges, Food Service Director of Vernon Public Schools, we were able to procure enough strawberries to serve as a fruit option at all five elementary schools in the Vernon Public Schools district. Over the course of the last five days of school, I visited each elementary school to promote the strawberries, and the farm they came from, Scantic Valley Farm, in Somers, CT. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, by both students and staff alike. Our incredible cafeteria staff were eager to get something new and colorful on the line, and our kids were beyond excited to try the juicy berries. When they came through the lunch line all you would hear was:
“WE GET STRAWBERRIES!”
“THEY’RE MY FAVORITE!”
But, nothing beats walking out into the cafeteria when the students are done eating to hands a faces dyed red from the ripe berries that they couldn’t wait to eat.
As challenging as Farm to School can be in Connecticut, with the long winter, and the logistics of transportation, costs, and labor, it is all worth it when you see the excitement on a child’s face who gets to eat a berry that was just picked that morning. Nothing really tastes the same after that. And, what really takes the (strawberry short)CAKE? Getting to go back to the farm where we purchased those strawberries, and let the farmer herself know how excited the kids were during lunch that day.