The inaugural Illinois Harvest of the Month (HOTM) program year launched in August 2017, after a successful pilot during the previous school year. More than 840 feeding or garden sites with over 467,500 students combined participate in the program each month.
Sites that are eligible to participate in HOTM include individual school sites, entire school districts, after school programs, early childcare sites, garden programs, residential programs, and juvenile justice centers. Twenty-two participants registered and nine organizations partnered to procure upward of 638,131 pounds of locally and regionally grown food.
SGA’s IL Farm to School staff worked with each participating site, assisting with local food procurement and cafeteria and classroom celebrations. SGA also helped with adding local foods to existing menus and creating new menus with scratch recipes.
Several participants with active garden programs featured produce items grown by students throughout the season. When students are connected to what they eat, they develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of where food comes from and the agricultural process.
Sites celebrated Harvest of the Month in many ways. They did tastings in cafeterias and classrooms, featured harvest recipes in menus, provided hands-on garden procurement and education, cooking lessons, curriculum and lesson plans, displayed posters and included the HOTM logo on menus. They also shared “veggie moments” through newsletters, websites and social media, and other activities.
At Peotone Community Unit School District 207U, Mr. Potato Head visited elementary school students to celebrate October’s harvest with them- potatoes! Here are more of the past year’s highlights:
Mooseheart Child and City School
A garden and residential program site, Mooseheart Child and City School in Kane County, fully embraced farm to school and tied delicious local fruit and dairy into a holiday celebration with their July Tasting Adventure. They got a big thumbs-up from their students and shared several tasty blueberry recipes with us. You can read more about this highlight on our program website.
Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124
One of our school district feeding site participants utilized the community extension kit to engage their community in the program and conversation on local food procurement. Food Services at Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 in Cook County teamed up with local grocery store Pete’s Produce to display Harvest of the Month signs and share recipes to shine a light on September’s featured veggie: bell peppers.
Rockford Public School District 205
To kick off the program year, Rockford Public Schools celebrated with a “Local Menu Day” with locally sourced corn, watermelon, and Chicago-made hot dogs. The students loved shucking their own corn on the playground and learning fun facts such as how many strands of silk are on a cob of corn? Answer: One for every kernel growing on the cob.
The next day staff roasted corn and dogs on an outside grill. he school’s social media outlets promoted the event and local television news stations shared coverage, pulling the community into the celebration.
Other sites also found success in engaging their students at lunchtime and in culinary programs. Students in The Joseph Sears School’s culinary program learned delicious roasted carrot recipes while snacking on local fruit.
You could hear the crunching from students enjoying local sweet corn served in the cafeteria at Wethersfield Community Unit School District 23!
The Illinois Farm to School team is proud to have worked with so many great feeding and garden sites, and we can’t wait to see how much Illinois Harvest of the Month grows in the 2018-19 year.
Resources and curriculum have been added for several new harvest items, and a redesigned calendar incorporates seasonal suggestions rather than monthly selections to make it even easier for sites to procure local food and celebrate nutrition.
Registration for the 2018-19 year is open until Nov. 1, and any feeding or garden site can participate. Currently over half a million juveniles in K-12 schools, after school and extracurricular programs, early childcare sites, and justice centers are registered and gearing up to participate. Will you join us?
Catch highlights, fun facts, and more all year long on IFSN social media: