‘One bite at a time’ — Harvest of the Month from Sierra Harvest reflects on the past year | TheUnion.com

‘One bite at a time’ — Harvest of the Month from Sierra Harvest reflects on the past year

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union

Tracey Walsh is shown here at one of the Harvest of the Month programs held at Bear River High School this past year. The program has brought 50,000 pounds of fresh local food into schools in the Nevada County area.

As the school year draws to a close, there's always a lot to reflect on. Awards ceremonies, signing yearbooks and celebrating friendships-promises to keep in touch over the summer … remembering all the new fruits and veggies you tried … you know, classic school stuff.

OK, remembering all the new fruits and veggies you tried at school may not be your version of a walk down memory lane, but thanks to Sierra Harvest's farm to school program, over 7,600 Western Nevada County kids' memories in 2018 are a different story.

Now wrapping up its ninth school year, the Harvest of the Month program offered tastings of 11 different local, seasonal, organic produce items in 300 kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms and four high school cafeterias each month.

Since its inception, the program has brought 50,000 pounds of fresh local food into our schools — that's over 25 tons of produce. And this year, Harvest of the Month extended its reach further into the community by partnering with groups such as the Dignity Health Cafeteria, Cascades of Grass Valley Senior Living Community and Gold Country Services. So it's not just the kids getting in on all the fun.

Just this year alone, thousands of students and community members of all ages munched their way through over 12,000 pounds of produce including: Asian pears, peppers, broccoli, persimmons, mandarins, cabbage, carrots, watermelon radishes, microgreens, and sugar snap peas.

Research has shown that it takes trying a new food up to 10 times (or even more) to know if you really like it, and 87 percent of students reported trying something new this year.

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Harvest of the Month introduces new and familiar foods to students and community members alike, as well as promotes local producers who are growing high quality produce.

In fact, this year 68 percent of students reported eating a Harvest of the Month item more since tasting it at school. It's helped students to like more fresh foods in the school lunch program and at home, and it's been a boon to local growers too.

And as the kids have grown, the program has as well. The kindergarteners who started with the first year of Harvest of the Month are now sophomores in high school. With 43 different items sampled over the years, these kids have a palate few can match. So here's to another year of eating new foods and supporting local farms — one bite at a time.

Amanda Thibodeau was the director of the Farm to School program for six years and now writes the Harvest of the Month article each month for Sierra Harvest.