Fresh Local Food Collaborative of Southeast Indiana launched Harvest of the Month in 10 school districts across Franklin, Ripley, Dearborn and Ohio counties Jan. 8, reported director Trish Bellmore. “415 pounds of spaghetti squash grown by Lobenstein Farms from St. Leon were offered on the school lunch trays of thousands of students in our region.”
This monthly local offering is funded in 2020 by the Ripley County Community Foundation, which earmarked $2,800 to support Harvest of the Month in Ripley County schools. She notes, “Without their support, none of this would be possible, so a very special thank you for their generosity.”
St. Louis School, Oldenburg Academy (where the squash was an extra option instead of replacing the vegetable for the day), Jac-Cen-Del, Rising Sun and Academy of Childcare Preschool, St. Leon, students sampled the squash, which was served in place of spaghetti and topped with marinara sauce Jan. 8. Batesville Middle School children will taste the vegetable Jan. 14.
“So far, reports are the kids loved it,” she says.
Volunteers transported the vegetable. “We have funding for the delivery van, but are still fundraising for salaries.” Bellmore adds, “We are seeking a volunteer to run the delivery route one Monday per month. It was almost a two-hour round trip.”
The recipe to make the squash is simple: Slice spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive or vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Place face down on a cooking sheet and roast for 30 minutes at 425 degrees or until fork tender.
Lawrenceburg and South Dearborn students will participate as funding becomes available, according to Bellmore.
She explains that each of these districts will participate in at least one program — Harvest of the Month, procurement into the cafeteria or school gardens — in at least one of its buildings: Batesville, Jac-Cen-Del, Milan, South Ripley, Rising Sun-Ohio County, Lawrenceburg and South Dearborn, plus St. Louis School, Oldenburg Academy and Academy of Childcare Preschool.
“We will provide a locally-sourced seasonal item the second Wednesday of every month to those schools wishing to participate. During this initial rollout, we opted to offer in only one building for each district, so in January, we estimate about 2,000 students were able to participate.”
Bellmore predicts about 7,700 students will be served local produce once a month during the 2020-21 school year in the four counties.
It takes much planning to get local vegetables to the students. “The squash was harvested (in the fall) before the first freeze in St. Leon. It was stored on site at the farm until we picked it up Monday, Jan. 6, for same day delivery to the schools. We wanted them to have a day or so to work with it before it was due on the tray.”
Now Bellmore and other organizers are picking the items for the rest of the year. “This way, the farmers can grow specifically for our needs. We have a small handful of producers available to grow for us, but as our demand increases,” more farmers willing to participate in the project will be needed. She reports, “The demand for this upcoming growing season is exploding.”
Interested farmers and volunteers may contact the Fresh Local Food Collaborative of Southeast Indiana director at 812-926-2200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.