Editor’s Note: The following was written by Jodie Lindsay Popma. Jodie is the mother of two boys and a parent advocate for school food reform at her school district in Longmont, Colorado. You can find out more about Jodie on her website Smart Food Made Simple.
I have always been passionate about healthy food, espeically from local farms. When I had children, my passion became a necessary way of life. I wanted to feed my family nutrient-dense, local food whenever possible. We took weekly trips to the farmers market in Longmont and we made planting gardens a family event. Then, my son entered elementary school, and noticed fresh, local produce was not on the menu.
In the summer of 2015, St Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD) in Longmont, Colorado created a healthy foods task force to promote healthy eating in school. As a nutritionist, I jumped at the opportunity to join this effort to learn more about nutrition services and provide a voice for change. This is when I met the School Wellness Coordinator, Sarah Harter. In our discussion, we spoke about Flagstaff Academy Charter School’s geodesic dome and greenhouse program. The geodesic dome was one of the reasons we chose that school for both of my children and because of the unique structure, Sarah thought Flagstaff would be the perfect fit for the Project Produce Grant from the Chef Ann Foundation. With the grant, we could develop a program that showcased the school’s dome and greenhouse alongside the local farming community, all while educating students about eating healthier and regionally.
Starting in preschool, students learn about soil health and how it correlates to healthy food and the greenhouse classes are always a favorite among the students. The kids love watching the tomatoes, radishes, sweet peas, spinach and other vegetables grow in a school environment.
The only problem with the program was when it came to tasting what they helped grow—there wasn’t enough for all of the students to sample their harvest.
Project Produce provided us with a great opportunity to collaborate with nutrition services, local farms, and the school to create sampling events that reached all of the students. Many at Flagstaff consider Ollin Farms to be our local school farm. This amazing, organically biodiverse farm is located so close to the school, preschoolers walk there once a year for a field trip!
Farmers Mark and Kena Guttridge’s daughters attended Flagstaff and they are always eager to give back to the school community. It seemed like a natural fit to partner with Ollin Farms to further the Project Produce grant program.