From farm to lunch tray

Lunch was a lot more local Tuesday at several area schools.

Meals made from locally grown grains, fruits, vegetables and meats were served up by Paul Smith’s College students during lunch at each of the Saranac Lake Central School District’s schools.

In Tupper Lake, muffins made from carrots students grew were handed out during lunch at the middle-high school.

Tuesday’s Farm to School Day events were part of the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative, an effort launched earlier this year to connect classrooms, cafeterias, communities and local farms in the region. The initiative’s goal is to bring more locally grown fruits and vegetables into the Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake school district cafeterias.

“The message is that purchasing locally, that sustainability is really important to support our local farmers, and to know that it’s possible to get this fresh, local food into the cafeteria,” said Ruth Pino. Pino is director of the initiative; she is also a Paul Smith’s College professor and food service director for the Saranac Lake Central School District, and has been a menu consultant for the Lake Placid Central School District.

Saranac Lake

As Pino spoke to the Enterprise late Tuesday morning, a trio of Paul Smith’s College students from Professor Kevin McCarthy’s American Gastronomy class were serving up locally grown meals to Saranac Lake High School students. The menu included roasted root vegetables from Mountain Meadow Market in Gabriels, Kale Chips from Fledging Crow Farm in Keeseville, grains from Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, meatloaf made with beef from Atlas Hoofed It Farm in Vermontville and apple cobbler with apples picked from Rulf’s Orchard in Peru.

Gina Fiorile and Sam Martin, president and vice president of the school’s Environmental Club, respectively, stood in the lunch line to explain to their classmates where the food for Tuesday’s lunch was coming from.

“We’re just trying to educate people about the importance of locally grown food, that it can be good, it can be enjoyable and it can be really healthy,” Fiorile said. “This is an example of what we’d like to have in the future in the cafeteria.”

“It’s a trial run to see if it’s working,” Martin said. “People seem to think it’s good food and they’re enjoying it.”

The college students serving the food said it was tough to gauge the high schoolers’ response to the change in menu, but they said they were excited to be involved in the initiative.

“Hopefully they like it,” said junior Paul Sidoti. “It’s cool. We get to educate them a little bit, and we learn something in the process, too.”

“The whole trend now is switching to local foods because that’s just better for you,” said Ryan Little, also a junior. “I think it’s a really cool program.”

Pino said Paul Smith’s students also helped serve lunches of locally grown food Tuesday at Petrova Elementary, Saranac Lake Middle School and Bloomingdale Elementary.

Next year, Pino said she hopes to bring farmers to each school’s cafeteria for Farm to School Day.

“I think it’s important our students understand the whole cycle,” she said. “It’s not just teachers and food service people; it’s community members, gardeners, college professors, farmers. We want to bring everyone together.”

Asked what it would take to bring locally grown food to the area’s schools on a more consistent basis, Pino said the biggest challenge is finding the time to prepare the meals.

“It’s the cost, slightly, but it’s time,” she said. “If we didn’t have the Paul Smith’s students who peeled and cored four cases of apples, and they did all the kale chips for us – that’s what really makes it a challenge. It will be piecemeal. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Tupper Lake

The Tupper Lake Middle-High School’s Green Team and Student Council celebrated Farm to School Day by giving carrot muffins to their classmates.

Last May, fifth- and sixth-grade students planted carrots in a new 6-by-10 foot garden plot. This year’s harvest yielded enough carrots to make more than 500 mini-muffins.

Four students from each team will attend the second annual Food Summit next Wednesday at SUNY Potsdam.

“Though fun and tasty, this type of activity teaches students food and agriculture literacy,” said Green Team adviser Kathleen Eldridge. “With the Common Core Standards, one goal is to improve literacy across the disciplines, and this is a great example of that, one that students can relate to.”

Lake Placid

A presentation on the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative was made recently to the Lake Placid Central School District’s Board of Education. Pino said the district is planning an event on Oct. 24. October is National Farm to School Month.

Shaun Kittle reported from Tupper Lake for this story.