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Agrarian Adventure, Chartwells, bring garden produce to cafeterias

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From AAPSNews Service

Chartwells, the district’s food service provider and The Agrarian Adventure, the nonprofit volunteer organization that operates the Tappan Agrarian Garden, partnered last week to serve homegrown items directly from the garden.

The small pilot project was a first in the Ann Arbor Public Schools: Produce that had been planted by students was harvested and enjoyed in middle school cafeterias.

Seventh graders studying an Edible Ecology unit in science harvested the crop earlier in the week, which included lettuce and radishes. Students were able to sample the fresh product on Thursday and Friday. About 150 pounds of lettuce and 50 bunches of radishes were cleaned and served.

Students were encouraged to sample the school-grown food and it was also used in preparing some of the school meals, said David Lahey, director of Chartwells Food Service for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Lahey said Chartwells set guidelines in place under which it would use the homegrown food from Tappan and that they approached the project with great care and caution. The produce was harvested by Agrarian Adventure volunteers and students, and then was transported to Chartwells’ facility at Pioneer High School where it was cleaned and triple washed before being used in the school lunches.

Each student had a chance to try it, Lahey said. “We’re hoping to do it again in the fall.”

Tappan garden radishes

Radishes and lettuce were the crops picked, cleaned and served last week from the Tappan Garden.

“This is a huge deal at the national level,” said Elissa Trumbull founding board member of the Agrarian Adventure. She said it is unique that a “contracted, externally managed food service provider has served school-garden grown food in the school lunch program.”

A change in Chartwells corporate policy allowed the pilot project to take place.

“It was phenomenal,” she said of the tasting. “It’s a really good opportunity. I hope it inspires other school garden projects. It’s going to be good for the kids and good for the schools.

“We’re paving the way – that’s how I see it,” she said of the Ann Arbor effort.

Lahey said Chartwells set up policies for using produce from school gardens and Trumbull said that the same care and standards that are used in local farms are used at the Tappan garden.

Lahey said that there are school gardens throughout the Ann Arbor Public Schools and that Chartwells is looking into using produce from those gardens at those specific schools in the future. He said they would also be looking to work with the organizers of the Green Adventures Camp, run through AAPS Community Education and Recreation in the summer, to possibly use produce from that off-site garden.

The Tappan garden is run and kept going by AA volunteers, but many students and teachers participate in the venture throughout the school year. Students not only learn about gardening and healthy eating, but teachers also use the garden for a variety of lesson planning and inspiration for students.

Trumbull said she wants to recognize the support of the Agrarian Adventures partners: the Ann Arbor Womans’ Farm and Garden Association, MSU Student Organic Farm and the AAPS Farm-to-School Collaboration.

The Agrarian Adventure is seeking volunteer to water the hoop house and garden during the growing seasons on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays. Visit   www.agrarianadventure.org for more information and to volunteer.

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