The car door slams and Kim Knoppel starts the engine. She’s a program coordinator for the Growing Minds program with ASAP, and today she’s going to Burke County, North Carolina for a farm to school road trip.
“We’re heading out to Hillcrest Elementary School, which is in Burke County and part of Burke County Public Schools,” she says. “We have a grant with Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, so we have been working in five elementary schools to set up some farm to school practices.”
She says Burke County is an especially good place for farm to school activities. “In rural counties, there’s less access to food and there’s typically higher obesity levels. Farm to school [activities] give kids the opportunity to have positive food experiences with fruits and vegetables so hopefully they are developing healthier eating habits.”
Three students from Freedom High School’s Foods and Nutrition course are here to help lead a strawberry taste test with the elementary students. Eleventh graders Katie Hamby, Shelby Welborn, and Kiersten Poteet are excited to see the kids reactions when they learn they’re getting strawberries.
One elementary student describes the strawberries as “good and juicy” and says they taste better than other strawberries he’s had. Another young student says that the strawberries are “delicious for me and so sweet” and proclaims “I like local strawberries” as he finishes his last bite.
Hillcrest Elementary cafeteria manager, Andrea Bradshaw, says it’s important to expose kids to different fruits and vegetables because “it’s good for our body, mind, and souls.”
Kindergarten teacher Emily Towery has been involved in several farm to school partnerships with high school students. Recently, 18 students from the agriculture class at Freedom High School helped the elementary students plant spearmint, tomatoes, lettuce. “It was a great experience to see my little ones working with the bigger ones, and it was great to see the big students interact with the younger students, too, because they’re not used to that, so it was a neat experience for them to learn how to talk with them and keep them engaged,” she says.
High school student Katie Hamby takes a moment to reflect on the strawberry taste test. “It was really fun,” she says. “These strawberries are fresher, unlike the ones that are frozen.” She says she learned a lot from working with the younger kids, too. “They have a lot to say. They have a mind of their own!”
Learn more about ASAP’s Growing Minds program, and find lesson plans to help kids of all ages connect with farm to school activities, at growing-minds.org