Worcester Public Schools kindergartners and Mass Farm to School! (with a little help from REC and CHP!)

Reviewing the past year …

The 2013 – 2014 school year was filled with farms, food, and healthy fun for the students of the Worcester Kindergarten Initiative (KI).

The KI, a holistic food education program of Mass. Farm to School, has Worcester’s young students exploring the goodness of fresh fruits and vegetables through in-class cooking projects and taste-tests, taking a multidisciplinary approach to understanding basic plant growth through the lens of science, language arts, and math lessons, and getting their hands dirty in school gardens and at local farms.

Here is a glance at what we, our students, and their families accomplished:

In August, we welcomed four new schools to the program, thereby increasing our reach to 675 students in 29 classrooms in nine of Worcester’s public schools

In September and October, six schools visited one of the Regional Environmental Council’s YouthGROW campuses where they learned about the urban agriculture that takes place right in the heart of Worcester.

In September and October, all nine schools were visited by the Regional Environmental Council’s Mobile Farmers Market.

The [REC mobile farmers] market, which travels to 15 different locations across Worcester every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday brought students their first take-home produce package of the year – local apples, pears, and peaches, along with recipes to share with their parents and caregivers.

In November, Community Harvest Project’s educators shared a new activity with the KI, visiting classrooms to teach students about the parts of the body that different fruits and vegetables benefit in an interactive, hands-on lesson.

In the winter and spring, students and families from eight schools learned how to make carrot pancakes during our series of family cooking demonstrations. 175 parents and caregivers attended these demos, representing a more than 10% increase over last year’s participation.

During the spring, the KI collaborated with two interns from Framingham State’s John Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition, who stepped up to teach KI lessons in four schools.

In May and June, all 675 students visited Community Harvest Project in Grafton for their spring farm trip, with 74 of their parents and caregivers in tow. Students planted their very own cherry tomato plants to take home.

In June, we thanked students and families for a great year and wished them a happy summer with gift certificates to the Regional Environmental Council’s Community Farmers Markets.

In July, we said good-bye to Lauren Wetherbee who has coordinated the KI since 2011. Thanks to her hard work, the program has doubled in size, deepened connections to local community organizations, and maintained a strong focus on making healthy eating accessible, delicious, and affordable for Worcester students and families alike. Isabel Burgess, who has worked on the program with Lauren since January 2013, has stepped into the role of KI Coordinator and is looking forward to continuing to expand Mass. Farm to School’s education programming
What a great year! We’d like to extend a big thank you to our generous funders, community partners, and Worcester Public School teachers, administrators, and food service team!

Go, Mass Farm to School!  Go, REC! Go, Community Harvest Project!