As the air grows crisp and we turn our minds to Thanksgiving, I am constantly reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a part of the world with rich bounty of local foods and produce.
I also feel lucky to work in an environment where there is a long history of sustainable, local eating. Our Archives tells the story of days when Westtown School had its own apple orchard, dairy cows, and working farm. In recent years, we have re-ignited the excitement around farming on campus. Faculty members work side-by-side with students to grow organic vegetables on the Westtown farm. This farm experience is both educational and exploratory for students and produces over 5000 pounds of vegetables each year. It is rewarding, not to mention fiscally responsible, to use vegetables from our organic farm to feed the school community.
People often ask me, ”How can I bring local fare to my family's table and get my kids excited to eat it?” I offer these suggestions:
- Find your farmers! Focus on shopping local and supporting small business owners. There are many resources on the Internet such as “Buy Fresh Buy Local” or the Chester County Agricultural Development Council
- Involve your family. Children always have more fun and are more engaged when included in shopping and meal planning. They get excited to create “real food” made with simple ingredients. I often marvel at the students who work in our Dining Room. They have a fascination with food and can be so creative when exposed to new foods. Involve the WHOLE family, even the youngest children can help...think peeling carrots, tearing lettuce or kneading bread.
- Introduce small changes and plan on trying a new introduction several times. Easy-to-prepare items like crunchy kale chips, wontons, or salad are a great hands-on starter item that kids can create and take pride in.
- Have fun! Play a game of “Iron Chef.”Find out what is seasonal and local, and brainstorm ideas on how to use it in your family meal. Discuss how buying local can lower our carbon footprint and benefit the Earth.
- Share gratitude. If food is bountiful in our community, share it. Make an extra casserole, buy a few extra staples and deliver them with your family to a local food bank or shelter.
As I say to my family, most that is good happens in our kitchen and around our table.
This holiday season, I invite you to roll up your sleeves, try something new from a local farm or business, and reflect on the many reasons you have to be thankful.