After biting into a slice of a Granny Smith apple, Spring Garden Elementary School second-grader Noah Saffran smiled widely.
"It's so fresh! I like it," Noah said.
Noah was one of 470 Spring Garden students who celebrated Homegrown School Lunch Week on Wednesday.
The celebration runs Sept. 25 through Sept. 29 and all school cafeterias in Carroll County plan to feature farm to school activities such as a planting lesson at Taneytown Elementary led by the University of Maryland Extension office partners, a culinary produce display at Century High School, a poster contest at Winters Mill, corn shucking at Parr's Ridge, Guess the Bean game at West Middle School and veggie tasting at Eldersburg Elementary.
Karen Sarno, Carroll County Public Schools' supervisor of food services, said Manchester Valley High School's FFA club students and adviser, Bridget Nicholson, provided special interactive nutrition education and farming-oriented activities at Spring Garden. The students participated in corn shucking, apple tasting, a vegetable planting activity, sprout necklace making, a bee to honey coloring activity and a "Where in the World" planting geography game.
Nicholson said students who participate in FFA, founded in 1928 as Future Farmers of America and now known as the National FFA Organization, were uniquely qualified to teach the Spring Garden students because FFA emphasizes "learning about agriculture and how it's applied."
FFA President Joshlyn Robertson said the trick was to "find ways to explain things to the students and keep them interested."
"A lot of people have no idea where their food comes from," Robertson said. "We hope the kids go home and talk to their parents about what they learned."
When the growing season and weather allow, Sarno said the Food Service Program purchases local produce to serve in all school cafeterias. Students were offered fruit and vegetables from Baugher's, Deep Run Farm and Wike's Family Farm at Wednesday's event.
"The very corn the students are shucking and apples they are tasting will be served in the cafeteria along with other locally purchased fresh fruits and vegetables are grown here in Carroll County soil," Sarno explained. "This ties in well with our goal to encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables in their school meals. We believe that one of the easiest ways to improve a child's diet is the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The kitchen staff work to make the fruit and vegetable options on the serving line plentiful, bright and inviting. Students can take one of each fruit and vegetable offered daily and we often see trays with four fruit/vegetable sides. The food service team members encourage the students to try new ones and put some color on their tray."
After inserting a seed into a wet cotton ball, fifth-grader Daniel Hoyle said they were directed to hold the seed close to their bodies so it could grow. The seed was placed in a little pouch attached to a lanyard.
"I think it's cool that we have seeds growing out of our necklaces," Daniel said.
Fifth-grader Abby Hein played the "Where in the World" planting geography game.
"I learned where fruits and vegetables are grown," Abby said. "I learned strawberries grow in Florida and onions grow in Washington. I thought it was interesting because I didn't know that. I might test my parents tonight to see if they know where things come from."