Harvest of the Month, February 2019. Photo by Katie Terou.
Harvest of the Month, February 2019. Photo by Katie Terou.

Harvest of the Month: From Local Farms to SLO County Students

Author: Public Health Department
Date: 2/20/2019 2:46 PM

Students at Baywood Elementary and schools across SLO County are trying new, locally-grown produce and learning about the importance of healthy eating.

The Public Health Department’s Community Wellness Program recently introduced satsuma mandarins grown at Cal Poly to the students of Baywood Elementary in Los Osos as part of a monthly program called Harvest of the Month.

Harvest of the Month is a program started by the California Department of Public Health to expand students’ familiarity with California-grown fruits and vegetables, local farmers, the state’s rich agricultural bounty, and how food travels from the farm to our plates.  In SLO County, the Community Wellness Program team visits elementary schools throughout the county to teach children about nutrition and introduce students to healthy foods and the farmers who grew them.

“It helps kids to connect to where their food comes from and gets them to try new things,” said Jen Miller, Program Manager of Community Wellness.

On a recent afternoon at Baywood Elementary, a member of the Community Wellness Program and a parent volunteer walked around during the students’ lunch time to share the Harvest of the Month, handing out the fruit and teaching the kids about its history, health benefits, and how it grows. The children were excited to try the fruit and many eagerly asked the volunteers for more. The school’s staff say they enjoy Harvest of the Month almost as much as the students. Lisa Stephens, principal of Baywood Elementary, is a “big fan” of the program and loves when it comes to school each month.

“It’s just great to see them get excited about eating healthy,” said Stephens.

Miller, the primary host of Harvest of the Month at Baywood Elementary, shared a story about one student who told her how he got his whole family to try daikon radishes, the Harvest of the Month produce item from the previous month, after he fell in love with them at school. Miller explained that this shows how the program is impacting the kids and shaping the way they eat.

“It’s pretty powerful when you can get the kids to change how their family eats,” said Miller.
The District’s Food Service Department provides the produce for Harvest of the Month. Each month’s cafeteria menu features the Harvest of the Month produce item on the garden bar, incorporated into the recipes and more. After creating the menus, the department seeks out local farmers to provide the produce. Miller describes the Food Service Department as a “critical partner in driving the local farming economy.”
“Harvest of the Month is a way of showing our commitment to buying local food and supporting local farmers,” said Miller. “It’s not only good for the kids and the school, it’s good for the farmers too.”

Interested in bringing Harvest of the Month to your school? Learn more about Harvest of the Month or contact our team at 805-781-4904.