In this Q&A, FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall describes the innovative and delicious school lunches and food-based curriculum at Boyne Falls. Hall works together with Groundwork and Michigan State University Extension. Read the entire interview to learn how she incorporated beets into the classroom to help her students make Valentine’s Day cards.
Groundwork Center: What’s your role as a FoodCorps service member at Boyne Falls? What does your typical day or week look like?
Lindsay Hall: My main role is to teach and connect students to healthy, fresh foods in school. My typical day could consist of any of the following activities: meeting with teachers to plan hands-on lessons that are centered around healthy food, but also tied to curriculum, facilitating those lessons, leading taste tests of local, in-season fruits and vegetables, lending a hand during lunch hour to encourage healthy eating, soon to be working in the school garden with students to grow our own food and generally promoting a schoolwide culture of health. That’s a lot for one day, that’s why I’m stretching it out across the entire year of my service!
Groundwork Center: What innovative approaches does Boyne Falls use to educate students about the importance of locally sourced and healthful school lunches? How is Boyne Falls unique?
Lindsay Hall: The cafeteria is definitely a core of this movement. It’s decorated with appealing and educational literature on healthy food and naturally fosters a culture of health. There’s also the school hoophouse that functions as an outdoor learning space and highlights the very definition of local.
What I think is most unique to Boyne Falls is their staff; they are dedicated, passionate and supportive. From the teachers that take extra time to eat with the students at lunch to the administration that crosses the t’s and dots the i’s behind the scenes — everyone is working together as a team to care for the students.
Groundwork Center: Can you mention specific foods that chef Nathan Bates has prepared that have been a big hit with the students?
Lindsay Hall: Most of the students just love whatever chef Nathan prepares. They may think they’re just getting tacos or spaghetti and meatballs. But they’re really getting pork from a pig that Nate smoked himself, chimichurri sauce made from ingredients right out of the school hoophouse, quinoa in their beef taco, cavatappi pasta or “farm to school in a pot” as Nate calls his homemade chicken broth.
Groundwork Center: What do you do in the classroom to hammer home these points?
Lindsay Hall: In the classroom, I try to focus on whole, fresh foods, where they come from and how we can create a healthy diet from them. Taste testing and cooking in the classroom are awesome ways for students to just try something new and become more familiar with foods they were reluctant to put on their trays at first. With some of the older students, we’ve started talking about what it means to support local and other systems-level concepts. They all know how awesome chef Nate is, and have connected that what happens in the classroom around healthy food is also already happening in the cafeteria.
Groundwork Center: Any idea how many students get their lone source of healthy, local food at school?
Lindsay Hall: Well, the free and reduced lunch rate at Boyne Falls hovers somewhere around 60 percent. That number reflects the percentage of students who may receive a free or reduced lunch based on their family’s income level relative to federal poverty guidelines. Now that statistic doesn’t always have to correlate with lack of healthy, local food at home. But for some, it most definitely means that their most substantial source of healthy food is coming from the school. Which is why we’re so fortunate to have such a caring chef like Nate.
Groundwork Center: I hear the kids tried local beets last week? How did that go? Were they familiar with beets? If not, what did they think?
Lindsay Hall: Unlike what most people would think, kids love to try new things! Even if that means just barely touching a foreign, jello-like object that’s placed in front of them. Yes, we tried beets in the classroom last week! Most of the students (first and second grade) had never seen or tried a beet before. When shown a raw beet and asked what it was, their guesses weren’t far off with a radish, a root or a potato. And when tasting it, they thought it was sweet, slimy like jello, but overall a thumbs up!
Groundwork Center: Side note: what’s your favorite way to eat beets? Any particular recipes or dishes?
Lindsay Hall: My favorite way to enjoy beets is the classic roasted method. Usually with other root vegetables and fresh herbs. My co-service member, Julia Paige, and I tried out a new beet hummus recipe the other week which was delicious as well.
Groundwork Center: Tell me about the beet-juice valentines, and how you incorporated those into your curriculum?
Lindsay Hall: After we did the beet taste test, we moved on to painting with beet dye! The students were already starting to catch on about the bright, staining powers of the beet and were more than excited to get a little messy. We used beet paint (water after boiled with beets) and beet “stamps”, which I created by carving hearts into raw beets, to create festive Valentine’s Day cards for today’s special day.
To connect to curriculum, we talked about how beets grow, how beets were used throughout history as fabric dye and how the words “beet” and “beat” are homophones — giving us plenty of un-BEET-able puns for our cards.
Groundwork Center: What drives you to do this work, Lindsay?
Lindsay Hall: I think that the simple joy of life that is food has inspired me from the beginning. It’s becoming more pertinent to me that having access to, and knowledge about, healthy foods is a basic human right that has been lost over time and needs to be reclaiming. And of course the kids! They’re authentic, creative, intelligent and hilarious.