More than just apples making their way into the classroom through Farm to School program

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The AmeriCorps Farm to School coordinator for Crawford County, Haley Mahr, who started in August, is pictured explaining to B.A. Kennedy Elementary School students about beets.

By Correne Martin

Apples might be a familiar sight on teachers’ desks across Crawford County, but other locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables are finding a place in the classroom regularly as well. Haley Mahr, the county’s new AmeriCorps Farm to School coordinator, is one of those who helps introduce and refresh kids’ experiences with such produce.

Every month, the Farm to School program, which falls under the UW-Extension arm, is present in the Prairie du Chien public and Catholic schools as well as Seneca, Wauzeka and North Crawford. As the county’s nutrition educator, Mahr, who came to Crawford County as a recent college graduate from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, focuses on helping people, especially kids, become more connected with their community’s agriculture.

“Every month, we have a Harvest of the Month, where we go into those schools and talk about that food—how it grows, where it comes from and why it’s actually good for them,” Mahr explained. “We also talk about things like the meaning of harvest, the local farmers who produce them and have them try a sample of the food.”

Students in grades 4K through fifth are expected to take what’s called a “polite bite,” which Mahr said involves simply sampling the food, thinking about it and giving their opinion to her as well as their teachers.

“It’s about just getting them to try different foods they might not be introduced to at home,” Mahr said. “They can say anything but ‘gross.’”

The Harvest of the Month is also prepared for the students in a fun and unique way, typically. Sweet potatoes might be sliced thin and served raw or cauliflower might be labeled as “cauliflower popcorn.”

In October, Farm to School highlighted beets. Yet this fall and winter, other produce in the spotlight will be cranberries, sweet potatoes, popcorn and wheat—foods that have a longer shelf life. In tandem with the classroom component, Crawford County grocery stores have recipe cards made by the Crossing Rivers Health’s dietary department and featuring the Harvest of the Month. Samples are sometimes given out at those stores as well. Also, Mahr creates a monthly newsletter that highlights a farmer who provides the foods she’s taking into the schools. It also provides fun ways to serve certain produce and interesting facts. The newsletter is sent home with kids and can be obtained at the grocery stores or at the UW-Extension office.

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