Local Food In Schools

All kinds of amazing work is going on in our local schools to help bring more local food to our students!

Below is an example of our Locavore Resource Packet that our Locavore Project Schools Committee developed for our local schools.

Fall 2008 Mad River Valley Eat Local Challenge Teacher Resource Packet

Compiled by the MRV Locavore Project Schools Committee

Dear educators,

As many of you may have heard, the word locavore was elected as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year in 2007.* “The word ‘locavore’ shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”

As enthusiasm for local eating mounts and interest in the Farm to School effort grows, we wanted to invite you and your students to participate in the Mad River Valley Eat Local Challenge scheduled for September 14th – 20th. Past challenges have had a positive effect on raising the awareness of where our food is sourced, and encourages discovery of the bounty that is available to us from our own gardens, our local farmers and other food producers within our midst. We encourage you to bring these ideas and activities into your classroom prior to the official challenge and throughout the year as well.

Attached you will find a Teacher’s Resource Packet that offers a menu of simple ideas that can bring the locavore challenge into the classrooms. These are quick and simple activities aimed at the Vermont standards and organized by grade. We realize that the beginning of the year is a very busy time for you and your schools, and are hoping that by offering these ideas a la carte, it will be easy for you to promote and celebrate the Locavore Challenge week with students.

We gladly support the school’s local eating and gardening efforts and wish to help strengthen its connection to the broader community. Please let us know if there is any other way we can help you in your locavore endeavors during this school year.

Warm Regards,

Mad River Valley Locavores

*The Vermont region has chosen to spell the term “locavore”

Why Be a Locavore?

  1. Fewer resources (primarily fossil fuels) are expended packaging and transporting local food.
  2. Local eating supports the local economy – more money remains in our local community.
  3. Local whole food is healthier.
  4. Eating local connects you the community members that grow our food.
  5. Local a food tastes better
  6. Eating local keeps farmers farming

What can students do to develop and show their understanding?


  • Observe 5 vegetables that are available from local farms, one for each day of the school week during morning discussion. Identify the vegetable by name, color, texture, and shape and inquire if students have ever eaten this food and how (raw, cooked, in a recipe). Describe the taste (sweet? Bitter? Good? Bad?). Discuss where the vegetable came from, how food grows, and what food grows in the place that we live. You may talk about the farm where the food was purchased and your experience there.
  • Make a rainbow lunch/snack of whole, colorful foods from local farms and talk about the importance of eating foods that look colorful, taste, look and smell fresh. A couple ideas:
    • Tomato (red)-basil (green)-cheese sandwich with carrot sticks (orange) and an apple (red).
    • Tomato (red), corn (yellow) , cucumber (green) salad with carrot sticks (orange) and blueberries (blue/purple)
    • Cabbage (blue/purple), carrot (orange), scallion (green) salad dressed with honey, oil (olive, sesame, sunflower), and cashews.
  • Food/Garden Journal
    • Document what students eat during the week. Choose a meal such as breakfast or dinner or the contents of their lunch boxes.
    • Observe and describe your school’s garden in your journal
  • Create food sculptures with seasonally available local vegetables. Check out Fast Food, a picture book by Saxton Freymann full of humor, whimsy, and photos of vegetable sculptures.
  • Vegetable prints with local root crops (potatoes, carrots, beets). Create a banner that celebrates the Local Food Challenge week in the Mad River Valley. Through this art project, students can learn vegetable names, colors, textures and sizes.
  • Identify the origin of local vegetables by looking at a Valley map.
  • Make butter (physical changes of fat molecules)
  • Make yogurt (bacterial organism action)
  • Sprouting
    • Make a seed sprout salad in 3 – 5 days. Sprout the seeds of alfalfa, radishes, lentils, and/or peas. Seed sprout mixes are available for purchase at Sweet Pea Natural Foods in Waitsfield and the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier. Link this activity to discussions about plant cycles and how we can “grow” our own nutrition.
  • Feed/study composting earthworms. Dig up and observe worms from the school garden or schoolyard and talk about the connection between worms and the food we eat. Worms breakdown food wastes through the process of decomposition to create rich compost for our farms that in turn feed us! Worms increase soil fertility, aeration, and rates of decomposition.

1st-3rd Grade

See Pre/K and,

      • Map your favorite snack–where do the ingredients come from?  Where is it processed/packaged?  How far does it have to travel to get to you?
        • create a visual representation of the distances involved (to scale in classroom, on paper, etc.)
        • take your favorite snack/food and come up with an alternative recipe using local ingredients
      • Tour the cafeteria/food prep area and learn what parts of your school food are local and what aren’t
        • brainstorm/discuss ways to bring more local food in
      • Harvest and prepare a snack with local ingrediets
      • Visit a local farm and help harvest root crops for the cafeteria
        • Little Hands Farm in Warren is open and willing to host school field trips
        • Sally and Jeremy
      • Hold a “taste-off” with local vs. non-local produce
      • List as many local farmers and what they grow/produce as they can.  Then compare to the Locavore Foodshed map (to be published shortly).
      • List as many local foods as they can–just what can we grow in VT?  Compare with published list.  Any surprises?
      • Compare the diet of a person 100 years ago with their own diet–what is different, what is the same?
      • Read Little house on the Prairie- what a historical local food economy looked like
      • Tend the school garden–harvest, plant cover crops, get ready for winter
      • What would they grow if they were a farmer and why?  Create a collage of their “acreage” showing their products
      • Food/farm/garden songs
      • Explore the MRV Locavore website.

4th-6th Grade

1st-3rd grade and,

  • Hold a mock “farmer’s market” vs. “buy it all mart” with different roles etc.
  • Labeling local foods at the local grocery stores
  • Watch “true cost of food” and discuss (6th grade)
    • Homework assignment: View “True Cost of Food” on Channel 44 for class discussion the following day.


Open Your Day Questions for Morning Circle

  • Do you think it is important to know where your food comes from?
  • Have you ever visited a local farm? What was your experience like?
  • What will you eat for lunch today? What do you think kids ate for lunch 100 years ago?
  • What foods do Vermont farmers and orchardists grow?
  • Do you know any farmers? What do they grow?
  • What is your favorite vegetable? Does it grow in Vermont?
  • Have you ever grown a garden before? What did you grow? Share a special garden memory.


Teacher Guides/Curriculum

  • The Mad River Valley Locavore Project’s website chock full of resources and links.
  • ”The True Cost of Food”
  • A 15minute animated short emphasizing the hidden costs in food produced by conventional methods, and some of the reasons to buy and eat locally grown food.
  • “A Guide for Connecting Farms to Schools & Communities”
  • “A Guide for Using Local Foods in Schools”
  • “Food For Thought: Challenging Big Food/Media’s Monopoly Over Our Media Culture”

Agriculture in the Classroom

  • A grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture. Its goal is to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society, so that they may become citizens who support wise agricultural policies.

Vermont Agriculture in the Classroom

  • Creates educational networks that promote farms, food production, nutrition and resource management in communities throughout Vermont.

Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom

  • A website to foster an awareness and learning in all areas related to the food and agriculture industries and the economic and social importance of agriculture to the state, nation and the world.

Children’s Books (We highly encourage you to tap into your school’s librarian as well)

  • Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, 3-6
  • The Man and the Ox Cart, Donald Hall, PreK-3
  • Linnea’s Windowsill Garden, Christina Bjork, 1-3
  • Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds, Jerome Wexler, PreK-K
  • In My Garden (a counting book), Ward Schumaker, PreK-3
  • Lily’s Garden, Deborah Kogan Ray, K-3
  • Pickin’ Peas, Margaret Mead McDonald and Pat Cummings, PreK-1
  • One Bean, Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey, Prek-3
  • The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle, K-3
  • The Ugly Vegetables, Lin Grace, K-3
  • Weslandia, Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes, K-3
  • Seedfolks, Paul Fleischman, 4-12
  • Planting a Rainbow, Lois Ehlert, PreK-3
  • Our Apple Tree, Görel Kristina Näslund and Kristina Digman

Did you Know?

  • One pound of prewashed lettuce contains 80 calories of food energy.   Growing, chilling, washing, packaging, and transporting that box of organic salad to a plate on the east coast takes more than 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food.
  • The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the US (about as much as automobiles do).  And, only a fifth of the total energy used to feed us is consumed on the farm; the rest is spent processing and moving food around.
  • The average 400 calorie breakfast consumes 2800 calories of fossil fuel energy.
  • The average meal uses 17 times more petroleum products then an entirely local meal.
  • On average, food items travel 1500 miles before arriving at your table.
  • 3% of all farms produce 62% of all agricultural production (talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket!).
  • Almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties that existed in 1903 are now extinct.
  • 91 cents of each dollar spent in a traditional food market goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen, and marketers and only 9 cents goes to the farmer while farm markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of every dollar.
  • 3000 acres of US farmland is lost to development (suburban sprawl) every day.
  •  During the 1950’s the average American household spent 30% of their income on food.  Today we now spend 15% of our income on food.
  • Vermont lost nearly 90 percent of its remaining farmland between the 1950’s and today.
  • Even in the early 1980s, Vermont was importing 70% to 80% of its carrots and apples.
  • The food system accounts for almost 16 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, which includes production, processing and distribution (statistic from June 2001).
  • It is estimated that 6 to 12 cents of every dollar spent on food consumed in the home represents transportation costs.