As the cold weather approached in recent months, Chatham schools held tastings of squash soup made with local squash as part of their ongoing Farm to School efforts. Head Chef Aaron Hairston of Chartwells, the district's food service, turned whole Jersey Fresh butternut squash into a delicious soup that parents and administrators offered to students in sample cups at each lunch.

“It’s really good!” said Chatham Middle School student Nathan Thompson.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Jennifer Entman,a parent volunteer at Lafayette School. “Most of the kids really seemed to enjoy the soup. In fact, there were quite a few who came back multiple, multiple times.  We were all really impressed with how adventurous they were--and polite.”

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“The goal is for students to know what grows in NJ and to taste it in season,” said Denise Capoano, Chatham Farm to School Committee Chair who coordinated the soup tastings.

The suggestion to hold local fruit and vegetable tastings for students came from the Chatham Farm to School Committee, which started in 2015 as an ad hoc group.   The Committee has supported the creation and/or maintenance of food gardens at Chatham High School, Middle School, Lafayette School and Milton Ave School.  The Chatham Farm to School Committee now works hand in hand with the longstanding Cafeteria Committee, which consists of Chartwells, parents, and principals, to increase awareness and lunchtime availability of Jersey Fresh produce, including a joint effort to debut new salad bars at the high school, middle school and Lafayette School.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture Farm to School division awarded Chatham Schools a special Farm to School Recognition in September 2017. The mission of the NJ Farm to School program is to “celebrate New Jersey's agricultural past, present and future by connecting the classroom to the cafeteria.” The NJ Farm to School Program encourages schools to incorporate school food gardens and local NJ produce into their nutrition, health and science education as well as serving Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals.

The Chatham Farm to School Committee welcomes new parent volunteers to organize Farm to School tastings, publicity, and hands-on tending of the school food gardens. For more information, please contact Kathy Abbott at

Ingredients for Chatham School’s Butternut Squash Soup:

Canola Oil
Squash, Butternut, Fresh, Cubed, 1"
Onions, Yellow, Fresh, Diced, 1/8"
Celery, Fresh, Small Diced, 1/4"
Spice, Bay Leaf
Oregano, Fresh, Chopped
Spice, Nutmeg, Ground
Water, Hot
Base, Vegetable, Low Sodium, Knorr
Salt, Kosher
Spice, Pepper, Black, Ground, Fine