Spotlights
Farm to school and ‘farms’ at schools: BCPS celebrates Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week
09/19/2016

Farm to school and ‘farms’ at schools: BCPS celebrates Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week

During Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week, September 19 – 23, students in Baltimore County Public Schools will enjoy produce from five area farms in their school lunches. Taking the ‘farm to cafeteria table’ movement one step further, an increasing number of BCPS schools are managing their own vegetable gardens.

“We strive, whenever possible, to serve fresh, local food to our students,” said Karen Levenstein, director of food and nutrition services. “This fall that has been challenging because, due to the lack of rain and extreme heat, many of the area farms’ crops finished one month earlier than usual. But we are pleased to announce that during Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week, all BCPS schools will have local produce to offer.”

On the menu will be:

  • Cantaloupes, green peppers, honeydew, and yellow watermelon from Shagel Farm in White Marsh, MD
  • Collard greens from Richardson Farm in White Marsh, MD
  • Yellow peaches from Colora Orchards in Colora, MD
  • Cherry heirloom tomatoes from Hess Farms in Waynesboro, VA 
  • White corn from Godfrey Farms, Sudlersville, MD

‘Farms at schools’

‘Extremely local’ fresh produce and eggs are on the lunch menu throughout the school year at Hereford Middle School. That school, in keeping with its rural location, has a unique and extensive agricultural program. Students there, in classes and afterschool clubs, grow produce that is used in the school cafeteria and raise chickens whose eggs also are served in school lunches.

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Beyond Hereford Middle, “the status of gardening in BCPS has ‘grown’ significantly since we instituted protocols for school gardens,” said Eric Cromwell, coordinator of elementary science.  “Just to give you a glimpse into what’s coming, by spring 2018, every Grade 3 student will be growing lettuce in the classroom. This highlights a major goal of my office. We want every child to have an appreciation for what it takes to grow and prepare the food they eat.”

Dawn B. Dawson, a resource teacher/naturalist, explains that our school gardens are in various stages of development and complexity.  A limited number of schools have an extended growing season, meaning that the gardens are maintained through the summer, primarily using an aeroponics system that involves growing plants without soil.

“The actual harvesting and eating of the produce varies as well,” said Dawson. “Some school garden teams grow vegetables within their class, some as a grade level, and others with their afterschool club. Most of these edible projects are small scale. After the students harvest the crops, the vegetables and herbs are prepared for consumption by the BCPS cafeteria staff who are ServSafe certified. Due to the limited crop yield, students might eat one lettuce leaf with dressing while others might have yielded enough to create a salad. One school garden team sent home bean plants with the students to care for with their families.” 

And the seeds have been planted for a new crop of gardens. “Dulaney High School just set up their tower garden this week, Ridgely Middle is developing plans for an edible garden, and Southwest Academy is making plans for a courtyard garden.”

Schools with gardens

(* means the school garden has an extended growing season)

  • Catonsville Elementary
  • Catonsville High
  • Church Lane Elementary
  • Deep Creek Middle
  • Fort Garrison Elementary
  • Glenmar Elementary
  • Gunpowder Elementary
  • Hereford Middle*
  • Hillcrest Elementary*
  • Jacksonville Elementary
  • Lutherville Lab*
  • Norwood Elementary*
  • Padonia International Elementary
  • Pleasant Plains Elementary
  • Pot Spring Elementary
  • Randallstown Elementary*
  • Reisterstown Elementary
  • Sandy Plains Elementary
  • Vincent Farm Elementary
  • Western School of Technology
  • Westowne Elementary
  • Woodholme Elementary
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