Farm to Go: Common Roots Helps Students Bring Healthy Food Home

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Thursday March 22, 2018

“Farm to Go is a fun cooking program where you learn cooking skills and make good meals to bring home for your family,” says Trent, a sixth grader at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS), adding, “It’s a really good experience and a place where you can be creative. I like everything about it!”

A six-week afterschool program for sixth to eighth graders, Farm to Go is sponsored by Common Roots, a nonprofit community organization. The program features a chef-educator who works with groups of students to prepare healthy, delicious family meals for the students to take home. Using a hands-on approach to teach gardening and culinary skills, the class usually enrolls up to eight students. However, this year, Common Roots reports they have slowly increased that number due to student demand. In its ninth year, the Farm to Go program has offered over 11,300 student made meals which have gone home to families.

Caryn Olivetti, FHTMS school counselor, says, “This program is fantastic in exposing students to new healthy food experiences. In addition, this program allows students to build cooking skills and confidence.” She adds that the students rave about the program, “They are so excited to get into the kitchen and cook and provide meals for their families.”
This year Common Roots has received two donations to help defray the costs of the Farm to Go program. Members Advantage Community Credit Union donated $1,000 for the sliding scale fee structure that pays for the educator and Vermont Federal Credit Union donated $3,000 for the food budget of this program for the year.

According to the organization, every Food to Go class starts with a healthy snack to power up the students before the two and a half hours of cooking. A taste test, featuring local produce, is also served. For example, students compared orange, white, and purple carrots and many tasted delicata and spaghetti squash for the first time. The Farm to Go dinner menu is often designed around local harvest, especially featuring produce from the Common Roots Farm at South Village.

Seventh grader Griffin commented, “I like that we get to learn how to cook and make so many different things like meats and vegetables and salads and breads.” Classmate Nadiene added, “In Farm to Go you learn new cooking techniques and make different recipes in every class.”

While learning and cooking as a team, Farm to Go students practice other skills as well. Sixth graders Winnie and Penelope noted they liked meeting new people and working together in different groups. Since the class has a mix of grades, often older students act as mentors to the younger student-chefs. In addition, participants learn where their food comes from and, depending on the season, take field trips to the Common Roots farm. There, students learn about farm production and sometimes help plant or harvest vegetables.

Olivetti reports, “Parents are extremely appreciative of these experiences for their children. They also greatly welcome meals brought home that their children have created!” Some parents share that their child is willing to try new foods because of the Farm to Go experiences, saying their child will even make a recipe again at home for their family.

Maureen Locker, FHTMS family and consumer science teacher, said, “It exposes students to real food and a variety of cooking techniques, giving students an opportunity to prepare meals for their family.”

For more information about the Farm to Go program, contact food educator Amy Sutton by email at asutton1411@gmail.com. Visit commonroots.org to learn more about the various Common Roots programs in the community.

SOURCE: Amy Sutton, Common Roots Food Educator