Food Explorers

Food Explorers Break Ground at Hilltop Elementary

From the July/August 2011 Edition of the Kensington Outlook

“My kid never ate cauliflower – now she wants to come to the market every week and buy it for dinner!” said the mother of a Hilltop student to Kensington Farmers’ Market manager, Chris Hall, about her daughter’s changed view of vegetables after becoming a Food Explorer.

The Kensington Farmers’ Market launched the Food Explorers program at Hilltop Elementary School this spring. The program is a chance for teachers and their students to learn about and taste the many foods available at their local farmers’ market. They are also given information to help them distinguish vegetables and fruits from edible seeds, roots, flowers, leaves, and stems. Kids hear about what children in other parts of the world might see at their markets and are encouraged to get acquainted with the food at our market, and with the farmers who grow it.

At the end of the program the kids receive Food Explorer badges and are encouraged to wear them when they visit the market on Sundays. They also receive a “market dollar” to spend anywhere they want in the market, and are encouraged to find the market manager afterwards to get another market dollar for their next visit.

“Our Food Explorers come to the market with a whole new perspective on food and the interaction they can have with the people who grow and sell it,” says Chris. The program has just begun in the classrooms of the first and second graders, but after the overwhelming response by the school, the plan is to extend it to the rest of the grades at Hilltop this fall. Plans are also underway to expand the program to other nearby elementary schools. The kids also get a chance to educate their parents about the market and what they have learned in the classroom.

“It is so exciting to see the kids come up to me at the market wearing their badges. They tell me, in front of their parents, about their discoveries at the market and show me the food they’re taking home,” said Chris.

Principal Judy Sanders came to a number of classes to see the presentations. At the end of one second grade class’s Food Explorer presentation she commented, “It was so exciting to see the level of interest and engagement from the students when we began the discussions about food and the farmers’ market.”

The Food Explorers theme was pioneered by Connie McCullah of Sweet Tomato Farms after several visits to the market and discussions about how the market could reach out to children. Both Connie and Chris began with several visits to classrooms at Hilltop, and now Kensington Community Board members are showing up to help out with the slicing and dicing that goes with each presentation. Becky Stephens, who heads up the Outdoor Classroom at Hilltop, has been a major force behind coordinating this program and will be working with the farmers’ market members when school reconvenes this fall.

Submitted by Market Manager, Chris Hall, and Board Member, Mark Altenberg.