Students enjoy Sierra Harvest tasting week |

Students enjoy Sierra Harvest tasting week

Bell Hill Academy third-graders, from left, Avary George, Joselin Garibay, Grace Crain, Monroe Hubbert and Elizabeth Garcia eat beets and beet kvass as part of Sierra Harvest Tasting Week.
Jennifer Terman/ |

This year’s harvest welcomes not just new produce but new experiences as well for students in 12 Nevada County schools as part of Sierra Harvest’s second annual Tasting Week.

Tasting Week runs through Friday and includes volunteer efforts by local chefs, nutritionists, educators and Farm to Table liaisons with the goal of helping kids make good food choices and taste new, unfamiliar foods.

Ike Frazee, owner of Ike’s Quarter Cafe, will demonstrate roasted acorn squash in his daughter’s Deer Creek Elementary School classroom; Nourishing Traditions teacher and chef Shan Kendall will return to teach kids about nutrient-dense foods; In the Kitchen Cooking School founder and public health cooking educator Wendy Van Wagner is demonstrating how to cook chard and kale with ginger and garlic. Nutritionist Victoria LaFont showed students about fermented beets in the form of beet kvass, and chef Shanan Manual will make carrot, beet and zucchini cakes with veggie ranch dressing.

The demonstrations not only introduce new foods but teach kids about the health benefits and simplified macrobiotics behind the foods as well, said Farm to School liaison Sarah Griffin-Boubacar, who assisted LaFont with the beet kvass at Bell Hill Academy Monday morning.

Kids also engaged in discussion of the produce and were asked to describe the flavors, said Griffin-Boubacar.

“I would ask the kids what they thought it tasted like, and some would say, ‘Weird,’ and I would have them elaborate,” she said. “I said I think it tastes earthy, and then five kids raised their hands and said they also thought it tasted earthy. They are involved in a conversation.”

LaFont said she wanted to make something fermented for the kids, explaining she strained the whey out of yogurt to mix with the beets to make the probiotic beverage.

“It exposes students to things they might not get on a regular basis,” Bell Hill Principal Debbie Plate said, adding Sunburst Farms is a partner farm and brings fresh produce to the school every Thursday as part of the Sierra Harvest initiative.

“Kids get to eat foods that were picked the same day,” Plate said.

“Kids are so enthusiastic and get so excited,” said Griffin-Boubacar, who is also a parent of a Bell Hill Academy student. “One kid held up a bell pepper and said, ‘I love bell pepper! It is so good!’”

To LaFont’s surprise, many of the students enjoyed the beets, though the kvass was too sour for many.

Third-graders Avery George and Monroe Hubbert enjoyed the beets, snacking on the leftovers when the demonstration was over.

“The juice was too sour, but I liked the beets,” George said.

Sierra Harvest — formerly called Live Healthy Nevada County — seeks to educate, inspire and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food to counteract the obesity epidemic, citing statistics on its website.

According to the site, in Nevada County in 2010, 7.3 percent of children and 51.4 percent of adults were considered overweight or obese.

One third of households were considered “food insecure,” meaning struggling to provide food for their families.

The site also includes research that kids perform better in school when they are not hungry and when they are eating a healthy diet, including fresh fruits, vegetables and grains. Another study showed that schools are a key part of healthy strategies for children because they spend 35 percent of their time in a school setting, and some children consume 50 percent of their daily calories at school.

Four schools were included in Tasting Week during the inaugural event last year, which ballooned to a dozen schools this year, consisting of Chicago Park Elementary, Deer Creek Elementary, Seven Hills Intermediate, Mount Saint Mary’s, Clear Creek Elementary, Grass Valley Charter, Margaret G. Scotten Elementary, Lyman Gilmore School, Bell Hill Academy, Yuba River Charter School, Ready Springs Elementary and Nevada City School of the Arts.

Farm to Table liaisons attend each demonstration with the chef or nutritionist as part of a doubling of efforts to meet demand for the program.

Each participating school has worked with Sierra Harvest through the Farm to School education program, which takes students to local farms for field trips and farm education. As part of the program, each school is designated a partner farm, which visits school sites and supplies farm stands with produce to be sold on site. The partner farms supply the food to guest chefs to demonstrate.

For information, visit or contact 530-265-2343.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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