This month volunteer chefs are teaching students in Nevada County how to make everything from tamales to sushi. It's part of the Farm to School program sponsored by the non-profit Sierra Harvest. More than 3,000 kids will sample farm fresh dishes.
Chef Shauna Schultz teaches third graders at Deer Creek Elementary how to make vegetable wraps.
Tucker La Francois is stuffing a whole wheat tortilla. He’s choosing from piles of chopped vegetables like collard greens, carrots and beets.
“We’re trying to put all the colors of the rainbows in our wraps,” he says proudly.
Lincoln Buehler decorateds the inside of his wrap as a vampire face.
“A tomato for the tongue, and then cucumbers for the vampire teeth,” Beuhler explains.
It takes the class less than 20 minutes to gobble up their veggie-wrap creations.
In addition to tastings, Sierra Harvest has several other programs in its Farm to School curriculum in Nevada County.
For example, students take a field trip to a partner farm once or twice a year.
Recently third graders from Grass Valley Charter School tromped through rows of kale and overgrown cherry tomato plants at the fall garden at Woolman farm.
In addition to sampling fruits and vegetables, students learn about bee keeping and sheep herding.
The same day Deer Creek Elementary transitional kindergarteners – four to five-year-olds -- file into the gym. Yolanda Williges holds up a jicama plant by its stem.
“Raise your hand if you’ve never tasted jicama in your super long life?”
Students try a chunk of the white watery vegetable and report a delightful crunch.
Malaika Bishop is the Executive Director of Sierra Harvest. She says about 43% more kids report liking the vegetable of the month after they try it. She tells a story about a third grader named Wyatt at Union Hill School.
“He just wouldn’t try anything. He wouldn’t eat anything unless it was white.”
Wyatt refused to eat anything at the monthly tastings from September until April. Finally, shredded cabbage was the vegetable of the month.
“And, he suddenly was like, ‘I love cabbage. This is so amazing!’”
Wyatt's mother has since called the school to share that Wyatt will now eat a widening range of vegetables.
Bishop says the Farm to School programs inspire kids to not only eat differently but also to push their parents to shop differently.
"We've also seen a 66% increase in families that report purchasing from local vendors so buying from CSA's, or from farmers markets, or directly from the farmer."
Bishop says the ultimate goal of the farm to school programs is to reduce childhood obesity and food insecurity in Nevada County.