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Florida School Celebrates Farm to School with 11 Pumpkin Dishes and a Lesson From a Chef

Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton (center right) and American Culinary Federation Chef David S. Bearl (center left) pose with RB Hunt Elementary first graders from Christine Skipp’s and Lori Hall’s class as they show off pumpkins. Thornton and Bearl visited the school located in St. Augustine, Fla., on Oct 18, to celebrate Farm to School Month and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Chefs Move to Schools initiative. The pumpkins were harvested from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural farm, Hastings, Fla., and were also used in the school’s lunch for the day. (Photo by Lanna Kirk)

Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton (center right) and American Culinary Federation Chef David S. Bearl (center left) pose with RB Hunt Elementary first graders from Christine Skipp’s and Lori Hall’s class as they show off pumpkins. Thornton and Bearl visited the school located in St. Augustine, Fla., on Oct 18, to celebrate Farm to School Month and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Chefs Move to Schools initiative. The pumpkins were harvested from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural farm, Hastings, Fla., and were also used in the school’s lunch for the day. (Photo by Lanna Kirk)

Nothing says autumn like pumpkins fresh from the farm! And since it’s Farm to School month, It’s fitting that I joined Christine Skipp, Lori Hall and their first grade class at RB Hunt Elementary School, in St. Augustine, Fla.  to sample 11 different varieties of pumpkins.  We took advantage of this fall’s harvest from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences farm in Hastings, Fla.

Tasty pumpkin-based recipes were prepared by Chef David Bearl of the American Culinary Federation. The dishes included a salad, chili, and pizza, and a wonderful butternut soup.  I never knew pumpkins could be prepared in so many delicious ways.  The rest of the school’s students also had some of the harvested pumpkins in their lunch meal for the day.

While I was there, I got to see the kids participate in a small exercise with the chef on how cooking can teach language, history, math, and science.  They also colored in the different food groups on ChooseMyPlate sheets. It was great to see nutrition education being emphasized—it’s important to getting kids off to a healthy start.

Chef Bearl, who also joined forces with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative as part of  Chefs Move to Schools, was enthusiastic about sharing his culinary expertise and helping the children learn about nutrition and where food comes from.  “The Farm to School, Farm to Table, and the First Lady’s Chefs Move to Schools movements are the most exciting things happening in food today,” he said.

American Culinary Federation Chef David S. Bearl teaches RB Hunt Elementary first graders from Christine Skipp’s and Lori Hall’s class, about different ways to prepare 11 different varieties of pumpkins and how cooking can teach language, history, math and science.  (Photo by Lanna Kirk)

American Culinary Federation Chef David S. Bearl teaches RB Hunt Elementary first graders from Christine Skipp’s and Lori Hall’s class, about different ways to prepare 11 different varieties of pumpkins and how cooking can teach language, history, math and science. (Photo by Lanna Kirk)

Farm to School programs are a way to connect schools (K-12) with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally produced foods.  Farm to school activities not only provide fresh, locally-produced food to school meals programs, but also provide small farmers with new marketing opportunities and school children with the opportunity to learn about how food is produced and harvested for consumption.

Partnerships like we have with farmers, chefs, and the American Culinary Federation are essential to helping our nation’s children develop nutritional habits that last a lifetime.  Because of their unique standing in the community, chefs are able to educate children about healthy food choices and help them understand their role in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

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