Special lunches teach environmental lessons

May 15, 2013 9:01:08 AM PDT
A local school is turning lunch into a lesson!

Every Wednesday at lunchtime, a professional chef takes over the kitchen at Haverford Friends school.

On the menu on this day - whole wheat macaroni with white cheddar cheese, roasted kale, and sweet potato fries.

All the produce is whole - nothing is canned or frozen - and it's being cooked within 24 hours of being picked.

These special meals grew out of lessons on where food comes from.

Michael Zimmerman, the head of school at Haverford Friends, says, "They came to understand, as a matter of stewardship of the earth, that eating grapes in February in Philadelphia was good for you nutritionally, but had a cost to the environment - that they were put on an airplane in Chile and flown here - the airplane fuel expended and all."

So, the meals are based on what's seasonal.

"It helps kids be aware that frits and vegetables are more available in the fall and spring, and in the winter, we're eating macaroni and cheese, and tubers that store easily," says Zimmerman.

Lee Kowalski, also known as "Teacher Lee," tries to mix in information on the origins of the foods for each lunch.

Upper class members help serve the lunches, to keep communication going between different grades.

Students seem to appreciate all the messages of these lunches.

Ada Skilton-Sylvester, a 4th graders, quips, "The kale's really good!"

Her twin sister Eve adds, "It's really fun, cause I don't like packaged food, like if they have plastic around it - it doesn't prove that it was made by somebody."

Even the servers are enthused.

5th grader Alex Samaha says, "I used to think that if they put all that processed stuff into food, it tasted better, and if they left all that out, it might not taste as good. But this food is probably the best food i've ever had."

In spring & summer, the kids also become 'square-foot farmers.'

"They have a square foot of land here that's all their own, and they can chose to plant peppers, or tomato plants, kale, or whateverm" says Zimmerman.

"They learn how much water it takes, and how much a square foot of farmland will support," he adds.

Haverford Friends School hopes to do the special meals 2 days a week next year