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By Celia Cadwell, HU correspondent
"Actually really good." "Way better than when I was a freshman." "Localvore days are the best!" These are responses from Lucy Gubernick, Joe Yalicki and Parker Cadwell, respectively, when asked what they think of school lunches at Harwood. Ask any student or teacher, and their responses are universally supportive and positive. This alone is praiseworthy because it is a true feat to please high school students when the topic is food.
In the past three years, Harwood has instated a new lunch program; from the chefs and food being prepared to the snacks being sold, the entire cafeteria has been revamped. First off, all junk-food snacks like Little Debbie's were eliminated from the cafeteria's inventory. Paul Morris, one of Harwood's two main chefs, says that, surprisingly, "Kids were not too upset by this."
In place of junk food, a large emphasis has been placed on selling local products and lunches. Starting in the 2007-2008 school year, once a month there was a localvore day, where the hot lunch being served consisted entirely of local produce. This past summer, the cafeteria itself was repainted, creating a more comfortable environment for students and teachers alike.
Now, although there is still a designated localvore day every month at Harwood, there is local produce as a part of every meal. This is made possible by a recent grant spearheaded by Harwood's Culinary Advisory Committee and written by John Potts. The committee's members are Paul Morris and Gary McCafferty, Harwood's chefs, Mary Holden, John Potts, Linda King and other teachers at Harwood. They recently won a grant of $11,050 to use towards the lunch program.
Receiving this grant is very difficult, as only four or five schools receive it every year. Governor James Douglas and Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee presented the grant, which in its full name is the Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School Grant Program, to the Advisory Committee on January 22.
Part of the reason why Harwood won the grant is because the committee specifically spelled out where the money would go. Seven thousand dollars was granted to be spent on local foods, including the monthly localvore lunches and two free localvore breakfasts for the middle school. Some of this will also go to food sampling in the cafeteria and food demonstrations by local chefs, farmers and food producers.
Another $1,100 will go to purchasing a food processor "so we can process local foods this summer and 'save the harvest' and store them for 2009-2010 school year," said Morris. These will include tomatoes, squash, pesto, and other local foods.
Approximately $2,000 will be used for staff and professional development, curriculum development, an Agricultural Apprentice-Farmers mentor dinner at Harwood, field trips for the seventh-grade class to a working farm, and a farmer-in-residence program.
This grant, in essence, is the energy and support that Harwood needs to continue to expand and sustain its improving food program. As a result of all the positive changes being made, Morris says, "I am proud and happy to be the food service director at Harwood." And it's pretty clear the kids are happy too.