Vermont Harvest of the Month and Early Childhood Education: Stories of Success at Newport Head Start
Contact: Maire Folan, Farm to School Program Manager, Green Mountain Farm-to-School
June 17, 2021
Vermont Harvest of the Month (VTHOM) is a statewide marketing campaign and resource guide widely utilized in K-12 schools across the state, but educators in Early Care and Education (ECE) facilities are also using the program to introduce children ages birth to 5 to new foods and to encourage seasonal, local eating. At the Head Start and Early Start Center in Newport, staff has found great success in implementing VTHOM into their curriculum and cafeteria. The Newport Head Start Center received a VT Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets Child Nutrition Grant in January 2020. This grant was made possible by the Rozo McLaughlin Farm to School Act of 2006 (6 V.S.A. § 4721), and helps Vermont-based early care providers and schools create or expand Farm to School programs that are integrated throughout the classroom, the cafeteria, and the community (the 3 C’s of Farm to School).
As part of the grant, Heather Baraw-Sargent, the Newport Head Start Center’s Manager, attended trainings with Green Mountain Farm-to-School to begin developing a framework for expanding farm to school in their ECE center. One idea that came out of these trainings was to utilize VTHOM to promote healthy eating and the trying of new foods for the children in their care. Sharon Roy joined the Newport Head Start as a Food Service Aid in October 2020, and took this challenge very seriously. She began incorporating harvest of the month recipes into their monthly menus and in newsletters sent home to parents. Sharon also helps lead weekly nutrition activities with the children based on the featured harvest of the month crop.
In October, for kale month, Sharon made kale chips, purchased kale baby food, made kale smoothies with yogurt and banana, and made a kale slaw. The kids were given a plate divided into 5 sections with a sample of each kale recipe. After trying multiple different kale recipes, the kids began to understand that just because they didn’t like it in one recipe, didn’t mean that they didn’t like kale at all, it just meant they liked it in another form.
The kale recipes were a hit, and afterward Heather said “We even had a mom write to us on our school Facebook page asking what kind of wizardry it is that we do, because her two sons asked if they could have Kale Smoothies for dinner. The mom was blown away as she has picky eaters, and she was so happy that they were trying and enjoying a variety of healthy foods!”
In June, for dairy month, Head Start staff were able to get a days-old calf from a local farm to come to the center so that the kids could see a baby cow and learn where milk comes from. The calf was one of a pair of twins, and the kids will be voting on what to name them. Starting in the fall, each classroom will follow the first year of the cow’s life. After the visit, the kids made their own butter by shaking jars, and got to taste it by adding the homemade butter to pieces of bread.
Heather remarked that VTHOM has “allowed us to introduce kids to foods they may not otherwise try. It has allowed them to try foods in different forms to see that foods taste different based on their preparation. It has also allowed us to bring nutrition activities into the classroom during COVID where otherwise we would be at a standstill.”
Learn more about Vermont Harvest of the Month and all of the resources it has to offer at vermontharvestofthemonth.org