Fresh, Local Ingredients Part of After-School Program

An innovative approach has taken place with Farm to (After) School in Fremont, Nebraska. Fremont’s k-4th graders, 250 of them, are tasting and working with fresh, real, local ingredients after their school day has ended. Leah Hladik, program director for this special effort, makes it a priority to promote enriching, hands-on experiences with the students, and Farm to School activities are a natural fit. 

In December, Fremont students learned about how the lettuce they would eat that afternoon was grown hydroponically at Oak Ridge Farms in Ord, Nebraska. They studied the nutritional value of this dark, leafy green and then went on to make their lettuce wrap snack. The kids loved the snack and want the lettuce wraps to make a lunchtime appearance on their trays. 

Leah is also working to be sure the schools are conscious of food waste. “They bagged scraps for me to bring home to feed to my animals. In the spring we will start using the scraps for a compost pile for our school garden project. The kids liked that they were bagging scraps for Ms. Leah’s chickens.”

The after school program is part of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), a federally-funded and national competitive grant program that supports establishment of community learning centers serving students in high-need school buildings. In Nebraska, the program is awarded and administered by the Nebraska Department of Education.

For the 5.5% of students in Nebraska who participate in After School Programs, 75% are eligible for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, and 14% are English Language Learners. Leah knows that bringing the Farm to After School contributes to these students. “We live in a rural area, so the importance of knowing community economic health is key. We want to bring to the table the idea that kids can raise their own food. We are able to offer them experiences that they might not get otherwise, and we really put the health, nutrition, farm to school benefits in that light.”

After School programs keep students safe and provide a place to learn, develop skills and relationships, and explore other interests. Connect with your state Department of Education for more information, and your state or regional Farm to School lead to help implement Farm to (After) School activities in your communities.

Fremont After School is a pilot school in our USDA-funded Farm to School Initiative. To find out how your school can participate, contact me, Sarah Smith, at sarahs@cfra.org.

Recipe:

2 bibb lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons shredded carrots
2 strips of bell pepper
2 pieces of cucumber
Dipping sauces: light ranch and toasted sesame

Lay lettuce leaves flat and put the shredded carrots, bell pepper and cucumber pieces on top. Roll it up like a wrap. Serve with dipping sauces.