BCPS celebrates Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week and National Farm to School Month

Hereford Middle students pose with watermelons they grew

This week, as students reached for lunch items in Baltimore County Public Schools cafeterias, they saw posters informing them about the local farms where the apples, cucumbers, green peppers, and squash they were about to eat had been grown. These signs were part of the school system’s celebration of Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week, September 23-27, 2013.

“We buy produce from local farms every chance we get,” says Cathy Haymaker, operations supervisor in the BCPS Office of Food and Nutrition Services. According to Haymaker, BCPS, working with Keany Produce, buys local produce whenever available throughout the school year. In addition to the fruits and vegetables mentioned above, the school system also serves local apples, strawberries, kale, tomatoes, and more.

SpotlightHereford Middle students harvesting watermelons

SpotlightHereford Middle students delivering watermelons to the cafeteria

SpotlightCafeteria staff at Hereford Middle begins preparing school-grown watermelons to be served

“Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week and National Farm to School Month [held each October] bring attention to efforts at BCPS and school systems across the state and nation to buy local and to encourage healthy eating,” Haymaker adds. Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland State Board of Education.

Homegrown School Lunch Week at West Towson Elementary School

West Towson Elementary School was among the many BCPS schools that fully embraced Homegrown School Lunch Week. In addition to signage, all West Towson students received apples from Baugher’s Orchards on Monday, and throughout the week, they shared “fun facts” about local produce via the morning announcements. In addition, West Towson families were encouraged to include items from local farmers’ markets in lunches from home and to have locally grown foods for dinner.

Ongoing efforts to encourage agriculture knowledge in BCPS

  • Agriscience Program at Hereford Middle School

On any given day, lunch in the Hereford Middle School cafeteria might feature egg salad with eggs from chickens raised at the school followed by watermelon for dessert, raised on the school campus.

Hereford is the only middle school in Maryland with an agriscience program. At various grade levels, Hereford Middle students investigate topics such as agricultural products, agricultural engineering and hydroponic farming.

Beyond the school day, students, led by Fred Doepkens, Hereford Middle’s agriscience department chair, participate in a poultry club (which maintains a poultry flock certified by the state of Maryland) and horticulture club (which manages a greenhouse and outside gardens).

  • The Mobile Agriculture Science Laboratory

Before there was a popular “eat local” movement and before restaurants promoted themselves as “farm to table,” Baltimore County Public Schools took the lead in educating its students about the science of agriculture and its impact on the environment. Through a unique Mobile Agriculture Science Laboratory – the only one of its kind in Maryland and the first of its kind in the nation – BCPS reaches students at approximately 17 middle schools each year.

At each school visited, the lab stays for eight to 10 days working with the school’s science teachers to incorporate agriculture science lessons into the science curriculum. The students visit the lab to extend their learning experiences by participating in hands-on agriscience activities such as studying agriculture and green industry careers; creating landscape models and observing the effects of precipitation on pollutants; making plastic from corn products to understand the importance of biodegradable resources; using chemistry skills to make glue from milk; and studying the byproducts produced by Maryland agriculture.

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