Three Bridges Elementary School in Hunterdon County was presented with the “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award” as part of the 12th annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week being held Sept. 26-30.
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher visited Three Bridges’ outdoor classroom to give out the award Sept. 27.
“Three Bridges Elementary School’s wide array of Farm to School activities makes it an exemplary selection for this prestigious award,” Fisher said. “Their incredible outdoor garden, commitment to sourcing local produce from local farms, highlighting harvest of the month in the school cafeteria, and using an indoor vertical growing system, are all key components of a high-quality Farm to School program.”
Acting Principal Anthony Tumolo, third grade teacher Filomena Hengst, and physical education teacher Ed Dubroski, who each lead the outdoor garden project, were on hand to accept the award and share their successes with students at the outdoor classroom.
“The Farm to School Program has provided an avenue for us to introduce many of the delicious fresh fruits and vegetables grown right here in the Garden State,” Dubroski said. “That students are able to participate in growing food, and then have it become part of a school meal, can have a lasting impact on them making healthy dietary choices for the rest of their lives.”
Three Bridges Elementary’s Farm to School activities include daily participation in Farm to School Week, menu offerings from local farms, harvest of the month featured in the cafeteria, taste tests with food from the school garden, an outdoor garden with raised beds, a curriculum tied to the garden such as “Planting a Pizza,” indoor herbs grown in AeroGrow, sending flyers home to parents, and presenting to the school board about the importance of nutrition and local foods.
Several more schools were honored as Farm to School Recognition Program Schools. They are:
- Broad Street School in Bridgeton.
- Carlstadt School District.
- Linden School District.
- Linden High School.
- Mahwah School District.
New Jersey schools that entered the Farm to School Recognition Program for the current school year were required to show evidence of working with farmers and the community to ensure students have access to healthy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and classrooms. School gardens are an integral part of Farm to School activities and provide hands-on education for students to connect to the state’s agricultural history and learn healthy, lifelong eating habits.
Schools will receive Jersey Fresh Farm to School promotional materials kits, including a Jersey Fresh Farm to School banner, aprons, taste test stickers, Jersey Tastes posters and seasonality charts.
Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week was designated as the last week of each September by a law signed in 2010. During this week, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture showcases schools that connect with New Jersey farmers to purchase local produce for school meals to increase student consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Farm to School activities can include, but are not exclusive to:
- Nutrition education, including taste tests with produce purchased from local farms.
- Harvest meals serving locally sourced products from New Jersey farms.
- Farm to School curricular tie-ins that connect the cafeteria to the classroom or school garden.
- Visits to or from local farms that teach students how food is grown.
- School garden education that ties directly into what is already being taught in the classroom.
The influence of the Farm to School Program has led to almost 500 schools purchasing local. More than 300 of the districts buying local have implemented cafeteria programs using Harvest of the Month promotional material to highlight the nutritional value of local items, and nearly 200 districts use a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and/or field trips to farms.
To learn more, visit www.farmtoschool.nj.gov.