Students get a ‘Taste of Bainbridge’

Annika Lesko (middle) and Hannah Lee (far right) harvest potatoes at Morales Farm last week. - Courtesy of EduCulture Project
Annika Lesko (middle) and Hannah Lee (far right) harvest potatoes at Morales Farm last week.
— image credit: Courtesy of EduCulture Project

A project five years in the making came to fruition this week as the “Taste of Bainbridge” kicked off in the Bainbridge Island School District.

Students district wide got a chance to eat produce from local farms in their school lunches that was planted, cultivated and harvested by students.

It’s a process that Jonathan Garfunkel, managing director of the EduCulture Project at GlobalSource Education, is glad to see happen after all the work that was put into the project.

“The last three years have been leading towards building this stage,” he said. “It took a lot of people to make this work and it was a true community effort.”

The project is one of several that has sprung up with the creation of the state’s Local Farms-Healthy Kids Act that aims to get local food onto student’s lunch trays.

In the case of the EduCulture Project, the aim was to show students how the process of farming works, from planting and harvesting food to selling it at local markets and providing food for school lunches.

To achieve that, Wilkes Elementary students from first through fourth grade – along with their teachers and a few parents – worked with local farmers Betsey Wittick of Laughing Crow Farm, Brian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farms and Karen Selvar of Bainbridge Island Farms in the spring. Kids helped plant vegetables on farmland at Morales Farm that was donated by Friends of the Farm.

First graders planted 400 heirloom potatoes seeds donated by Wittick, while second and third graders planted sweet corn and edible sunflowers. The fourth graders planted sugar pumpkins as a gift to the incoming kindergarten class.

Last week, students went back out to harvest 2,500 Yellow Fin, Romance, Ozette and Snowflake potatoes to be donated to the school district and used in school lunches. More than 500 ears of sweet corn were purchased from Selvar, with students and community members volunteering to harvest and shuck the corn that was also used in school lunches this week. Sugar pumpkins and sunflower seeds are also going to appear on the menu this month.

Garfunkel said the food not used in lunches will be donated for school projects, snacks or to food banks.

Getting students into the field to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom is one of the big goals with this project, Garfunkel said.

“Part of what we’re doing is hopefully training the next generation of farmers,” he said.

BISD Food and Nutrition supervisor Patty Rounsley said she’s excited to be a part of this project and work the logistics of serving local food.

“The biggest thing is projecting the number of servings as part of a regular day to make sure everyone gets a taste,” she said.

The biggest concern is the cost to the school district. Rounsley said while the cost to purchase locally from farmers is more, she said she’s “willing to do it and make it work for everybody.”

Wilkes Principal Sheryl Belt said the educational aspect of the program is what excites her.

“We love the relationship the school staff and the kids develop with the local farmers,” she said.

Garfunkel said he’s confident they can reach the long-term goal of creating and sustaining a local food cycle.

“We want both of those realms to interconnect,” he said. “The kids love getting dirty digging up food. Knowing that the food they harvest will be in the lunchroom is pretty powerful.”

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