Farm to School

Cafeterias Unknown: Westminster Community Schools


My first lunch date was with Mandy Walsh, Westminster Center School’s librarian and garden extraordinaire. Because I’m a grown-up, she even let me eat lunch in the library with her—ssh, don’t tell!

We chatted about her garden plans over VT beef tacos and mixed greens salad. I loaded my taco up with sour cream and salsa. In true kiddo fashion, I kept my black beans in a separate compartment on my tray—didn’t want them mingling with my cottage cheese!

Westminster’s salad bar was loaded up with tender greens and a variety of veggies and dressings. I went with a big helping of greens, olives, and a dash of ranch dressing and treated myself to a small helping of cottage cheese as well. Last, but certainly not least, I grabbed a crisp, local apple from Green Mountain Farm. Voila! No lack of color on that tray!


The cafeteria, deemed the Farm to School Café, is adorned with a colorful mural and plenty of student art. Inside, you will find Melissa Bacon and Sarah Allaire. Melissa is a local parent and began her culinary career when her kids entered school. She is an outdoor enthusiast and she has the coolest last name EVER. Sarah also began cooking when her son entered kindergarten. She is an avid gardener, making her the perfect fit for a school like Westminster.

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Melissa and Sarah source local beef from Big Picture Farm and local apples from Green Mountain Orchards. Oftentimes, local greens come from Harlow Farm just down the road!

Though I didn’t get to hang out in the cafeteria, Mandy and I did have a grand ol’ time talking shop about farm to school in the library. On my way out, I ran into a few old friends from my last lunch date at Westminster. Until next time Westminster—thanks for the treats!

Cafeterias Unknown

One gal’s journey into the world of school lunch.

When my Food Connects team posed the question, “what’s one big goal you have for 2019?” I paused. What would I set out to achieve in this new year? Overhaul school meal regulatory systems? Build more school gardens? Combat food insecurity by campaigning for school meal participation? Well, yes, I wanted to do ALL of those things, but another idea came bubbling to the surface. I would eat school lunch at all of the 25+ schools that we support in Southern Vermont.

I spend my days thinking about, talking about, and (sometimes) dreaming about school lunch! But I realized I haven’t actually enjoyed a school lunch for quite some time—since high school, in fact! Back in those days, I ate school lunch every day. My favorites included the “pizza boat,” canned peaches and, of course, strawberry milk. Well, things have changed a bit since then. School cafeterias in and around Brattleboro and Bellows Falls offer all sorts of delicious treats these days. Think corn chowder with homemade ciabatta rolls or roasted root vegetable pot pie or Grafton cheddar mac & cheese. Can you say YUMMO?! My mouth is already watering.


And so my adventure begins. As I’m sure many of you have been dying to know how school lunch has evolved over the past 10 or so years, I will do my best to document this journey. Stay tuned for anecdotes, photos and plenty of vegetable-related puns.

Bon appetit!


What is winter good for? Taste testing!

What is winter good for? Harvest of the Month Taste Tests, of course! Many schools in and around Vermont offer monthly taste tests in order to engage students in the cooking and tasting of new foods. The goal of the Harvest of the Month program is to “promote seasonal eating, encourage healthy diets and support the local economy.” At some schools, educators partner with cafeteria staff to prepare and serve the taste test. At others, samples are prepared and served by students.

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Student gardeners at Riverside Middle School keep busy during the winter months by coordinating monthly taste tests for their peers. Each month, they feature a different VT Harvest of the Month product, including kale, sweet potatoes, and winter squash this fall. These students make up the after-school garden club/summer camp, Lettuce Grow Food. In addition to coordinating taste tests during the school year, they also grow food during the spring and summer that is then featured at Riverside’s annual Back to School BBQ. Other products from the garden are shared with community members in need.

Due to their continued commitment to local food and nutrition education, Riverside Middle School received a 2-year Farm to School grant from the VT Agency of  Agriculture Food & Markets last school year. This funding will allow them to accomplish a number of Farm to School goals, including:

  • Expanding the school’s composting program

  • Professional development for all staff

  • Integration of food system curricular units in the classroom

  • Increasing the amount of local food being used in the school’s cafeteria

Thanks to Corrinne Kanser, Becca Osborn, Becca Polk, Cliff Weyer, Nate McNaughton and Martha Tarbell for their work in implementing these goals at Riverside!