From crunching apples to meeting with Farmer Todd, Pequenakonck Elementary School students celebrated harvest season with a unique experience last week.
With a donation of 250 pounds of apples from the Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard, hundreds of students and teachers took a bite of the juicy fruit at PQ on Oct. 25, National Food Day. They also met with Todd Stevens, a farmer at Harvest Moon, who presented different types of apples during lunch earlier in the week.
The events are a kick-off of a Farm to School program which aims to help children learn through trial and error and build connections to the environment. The program is organized by the Farm to School Committee and funded through PTO.
It also includes an Edible Medical Garden in front of the school, which was planted by the committee and parent volunteers this summer. The committee is in the process of developing a sensory garden and possibly a teaching pond for the 2019-2020 school year.
Stevens, nicknamed Farmer Todd, is the first farmer who was invited to the school through Farmer Fridays, a program which brings in local farmers to give a short presentation during lunch and feature a food they make or grow on the farm. He was excited to share the information about apples with children and help them understand agriculture in the area.
“It’s about appreciation for food, as well as helping them build a preservation mindset,” Stevens said.
Karen Proctor, PTO co-vice president and an organizer of the event, said it is the first time the school participated in the Big Apple Crunch, a statewide initiative to support local farmers and increase awareness of local farms and apple growing.
The Big Apple Crunch originated in New York City in 2012 as a way of celebrating National Food Day, according to FarmOn! Foundation. After it set a record with more than 2.3 million people participating, the activity spread across the country, and hundreds of thousands of people from schools to hospitals and nursing homes to stores have joined.
“It brings awareness to different kinds of apples and apple picking, especially for the kids who have never gone beyond the grocery store,” Proctor said. “Having a local farmer was a big success with all the kids who recognized him from the local farm. It brings the connection of farm to school full circle and connects the community to kids.”
More than 100 school districts in the state either have started or plan to start farm-to-school activities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census. The activities range from building school gardens and working on class horticulture projects to taking field trips to farms.
PQ Principal Mary Johnson said previously that she is excited about the opportunity and ready to incorporate the new activities into the school program and curriculum. She plans to start with small moves and develop the program gradually.