Several elementary schools in the Napa Valley Unified School District will soon be delivered monthly “tasting kits” of fruits and vegetables.
The kits are part of the Harvest of the Month program, a farm-to-school project that aims to improve student nutrition, promote agricultural education, and provide farmers access to the school district’s food service program.
Tasting kits will be delivered once a month and will include a lesson plan, fruits or vegetables for tasting, and a video profiling the farm and explaining how the produce was grown.
Sodexo, the school district’s food vendor, also has agreed to purchase the produce each month to feature it in the school lunch program.
Every elementary school in the district was invited to participate in Harvest of the Month, and about 15 schools responded, said Sandy Elles, executive director of the Napa County Farm Bureau. The program is not mandatory, so individual teachers can decide whether or not they want their class to be involved.
West Park Elementary is one of the schools that’s chosen to participate. Principal Julie Herdell said the Harvest of the Month program will be a good “add-on” to West Park’s garden program, which utilizes a school garden as an outdoor classroom. Students learn about different types of vegetables and how to harvest them, as well as the different growing seasons.
“Understanding where your food comes from is so important,” Herdell said.
When children learn about the vitamins and other health benefits of vegetables and fruits, Herdell said they can make better food choices, which may help reduce the rates of childhood obesity.
The Harvest of the Month program will be implemented this February and will run through the 2014-15 school year, Elles said.
The program was started thanks to a $250,000 grant awarded to the Napa County Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Due to the lack of fruit and vegetable farms in Napa County, the grant allows the local farm bureau to work with farms within 300 miles.
In February, participating schools will receive mandarins from Six Palms Ranch in Tulare County, which is north of Bakersfield. Broccoli, snap peas and strawberries will be delivered from other California farms in March, April and May.