-Prairie Crossing Charter School, Grayslake
Farm to Table Lunch Program at the Prairie Crossing Charter School, Grayslake, Illinois
In fall of 2005, parent volunteers, Susan Barg and Melissa Ritter, conceived and developed the Farm to Table Lunch Program at the Prairie Crossing Charter School (PCCS). Susan is a former member of the school’s Parent Staff Organization (PSO). Melissa is both a parent and a professional chef, and she spearheads the meal planning and cooking for Farm to Table lunches. Chef Melissa works closely with the Prairie Crossing Learning Farm to feature local food, often grown by the students, as often as possible. The Learning Farm is a non-profit, educational farm located a half-mile from PCCS.
All 360 students and 50 staff at PCCS are invited to participate in a freshly prepared hot lunch on the third Wednesday of each month. Melissa and Susan worked to recruit other parent volunteers and formed the Farm to Table Lunch Program Committee (FTLPC) which prepares and serves the lunches. FTLPC also encourages parents to come and eat with their children and invites members of the community to have lunch as well.
Lunch is currently served in the Byron Colby Barn, a restored barn converted into a community center. It is a one minute walk from the classroom buildings.
- Build community: Give the children the opportunity to dine in a warm, inviting setting and socialize with their peers and, on occasion, with their parents.
- Encourage a healthy and varied diet among students and staff. For those who do not purchase the lunch, free samples are made available as a way to encourage everyone to try something new.
- Develop personal responsibility: Participants rinse their own dishes and clean up their tables so that everything is clean for the next group.
- Trash-Free: The Charter School strives to create as little trash as possible. As part of this effort, the children bring cloth napkin, plate, bowl and utensils to school at the beginning of the year. These are cleaned after each use and kept at the school for future use. Lunches are prepared with locally grown produce, with little or no packaging, whenever possible. The children compost their table scraps to minimize solid waste disposal.
- Connect students to the source of their food: Two full-time farm educators, Nicole Jain Capizzi and Brittany Futterman, develop and teach lessons that integrate agriculture and other school subjects. In 2006, the April and May lunches featured produce grown by the Kindergarteners and First- and Second-graders respectively. Working with the Learning Farm, FTLPC aims to have a different grade responsible for planting, growing, harvesting, and prepping the produce for each month’s lunch. In addition, we hope to get the 6-8 graders involved in cooking the lunches.
- Integrate the Farm to Table Program into classroom curriculum. In 2006, classes completed various projects tying math, language arts and science to the production of Learning Farm produce for their lunches. We hope to continue and expand these projects in the future.
- Fulfill the Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles of PCCS’s Charter. Environmental stewardship is an important part of PCCS’s Charter. By highlighting locally grown produce, the Farm to Table Program provides a real life example through the lunches of a tasty and healthy meal that is environmentally sound – much of the produce used has not required fossil fuels for transport, solid waste packaging is reduced or eliminated, and table scraps are composted.
Marketing the Farm to Table Lunch Program:
- Newsletter: Recipes, “Top Ten Reasons”, and pictures from the most recent lunch are published monthly in the PSO newsletter. The “Top Ten Reasons to Support Farm to Table Lunch” is a fun way to give parents and children different reasons to try the lunch. Each month a different reason is highlighted and then tied to specific elements of the program.
- Bulletin board: Near the front entrance of the school: highlights the Learning Farm and its connection with Farm to Table Lunch Program.
- Point of service communication: Plan to include recipe cards to take home, and ballots about menu items for the students to cast.
Phone: (847) 548-8895