Article submitted by Chelsea Sarg, FoodCorps Member, CAFF North Coast Region
“Dear Farmer Jim,
Thank you for growing the chard! My name is Jensen and I loved it so much that I almost fainted. The chard made me feel loved and happy.”
Never did I think chard would be the Harvest of the Month produce item most loved by students, but Sonoma county students proved me wrong! Community Alliance with Family Farmer’s (CAFF) Harvest of the Month (HOTM) is a program that aims to increase familiarity, consumption, and access to fruits and vegetables in student-age children. Each month, students are able to taste the featured produce item, learn about how and where it grows, and about the nearby farmer who grew it. As the Foodcorps Service Member serving at CAFF, I have the pleasure of going into classrooms to help teach the lessons. I get to experience first hand, the students becoming more aware of where produce comes from – a farm not just a grocery store! I also get to hear the wonderful, and often hilarious, feedback from the students and teachers.
Obesity is a serious public health issue affecting adults, adolescents and children, with low-income communities affected the most. Today, more than 1/3 of American children and adolescents, aged 6 to 19, are overweight. Research has shown that consumption of fruits and vegetables is an important component of staying healthy and aiding in weight maintenance and reduction. Food environment plays a large role in the consumption of fruits and vegetables including home, school, and neighborhood environments. In the home, the availability of fresh produce encourages consumption of healthy options, whereas availability of less healthful foods will encourage the opposite. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/american-kids-will-spend-an-average-of-943-hours-in-elementary-school-this-year/)
The HOTM program supports youth in their exposure and interest of fresh fruits and vegetables. Experiencing produce in a classroom setting with other student peers and through a classroom activity is a fun way to learn about food. Educators are free to be creative with the HOTM kits and adapt their own lessons, or the provided Common Core aligned lessons, to fit their classrooms accordingly. Recipes and the Network for a Healthy California’s HOTM newsletters are often sent home with the children, encouraging parents to offer healthy meals and snacks at home.
The obesity epidemic won’t solve itself, so programs like CAFF’s HOTM tasting kit program exist to help transform youth from passive consumers to informed eaters who make good nutrition and stewardship choices. And where else would I get to get to experience students making statements like, “My crunchy, sour carrot is so good it tastes a little grassy and a little flowewry.”
To find out more about CAFF’s Not sure if it worked.
Harvest of the Month program visit the Classroom Registration Page or www.caff.org.