QUINCY – Point Webster students got healthy eating tips Wednesday morning, while testing their green thumbs.
Students in Lara Collier’s seventh grade class braved the wind and cold to plant garlic cloves, which they were told will become garlic heads by the harvest in July. Later, they joined the rest of their class in the cafeteria to snack on tomato and pesto paninis made from kale and basil grown in the school garden.
“The goal is to provide the kids with a local, fresh and hopefully mouth-watering snack,” said Janice McPhillips, an agricultural educator at Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, who visited grade seven students on Wednesday. of Point Webster Middle School.
The gardening lesson and the farm-fresh meal are part of an emerging focus on nutrition and food production at Quincy public schools, which plans to grow a vegetable patch in every school by 2020. McPhillip’s visit at Point Webster was part of the program started in 2016 with the help of a farm-to-school grant from the USDA.
“We visited the farm twice last year and they loved it. We went back this year and they loved it,” Collier said. “It’s a great experience to get them out of school and do something practical. “
McPhillips told the students that the garlic will be harvested and dried in July, and then be ready to eat by the fall when the students begin grade eight. The seventh-graders also learned a gardening trick by planting cloves with seaweed, which McPhillips says is a natural fertilizer.
The students joined the rest of their class for lunch when they finished planting the cloves. In addition to the tomato and basil paninis, the cafeteria served carrot “fries”, which were baked in the oven instead of fries.
And it wasn’t just paninis on the menu. Pizzas with carrot fries have also been offered, following federal nutritional guidelines for vegetable servings per meal.
“It will be an attractive sale because it is a vegetarian meal,” said Sara Dufour, director of school nutrition for Quincy Public Schools. “We hope it goes well, and if not, this is a good opportunity to show them off.”
As the students marched in line, many chose to grab a platter with a panini. After they sat down to eat, many took small bites first. The general consensus among students? They liked what they were trying for lunch.
“I like it,” said Mayara Clem, 12. “It’s different. It’s really good.”
For many students, this was their first time trying kale, which was part of the pesto.
“I only ate a kale smoothie,” said Arianna Kelly, 13.
Nancy Tran, 12, has never tried kale before, but said she loves panini.
“It’s unique,” she said.
The goal of teaching students about farms and fresh food, McPhillips said, is to make healthier food less foreign to them.
“There’s all of this research that if you expose kids to farms, farmers, gardens… it basically creates healthy eating habits throughout life,” she said.