By Laura Wright–With a baby in an one arm and salad tongs in the other, Niki Weaver was serving up veggies to hungry kids at Talkeetna Elementary school recently. PTA member and parent of a first grader and a preschooler, Weaver applied for a grant through the US Department of Agriculture Farm to School Program. The program kicked off with a salad bar for all students consisting of vegetables all grown locally. Weaver’s aim is to increase awareness, not just in the school, but in the community, of the local foods available from farming, fishing, hunting and gathering as well as to provide fresh healthy food for the children.
A colorful assortment of fresh lettuce greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, snap peas and carrots awaited the children. All of the vegetables were grown at Brian Kingsbury’s Birch Creek Ranch Community Supported Agriculture. The grant money, $1000.00 is used to purchase the vegetables and other supplies for learning about local foods.
To continue their project, the children will be taking a field trip to Ed Craver’s Right of Way Farm on the banks of the Susitna River just a few blocks from the school. They will pick vegetables, learn about growing foods and make meals with their harvest. They’ll also have projects associated with the food. The 5th and 6th graders will be taking rhubarb leaves and imprinting them into cement to make birdbaths. The younger classes will make potatoes stamp prints. Grades 3 and 4 will be generating electricity from potatoes!
Weaver says that if the money holds out they hope to continue the salad bar once a week for the entire school year using local vegetables for as long as possible but switching to other sources later in the year.
The PTA will be sponsoring a community wide event to promote local foods and the Farm to School Program. There will be a free potato bar with all the fixings on Tuesday September 27th from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at Talkeetna Elementary School. Community members are asked to bring a side dish or dessert made with something they farmed, fished, hunted or gathered.