State Sen. Beth Bye attended the farmers’ market at Webster Hill Elementary School in West Hartford last week, announcing a $40,000 grant for the local organization to expand its programs throughout the area.
By Ronni Newton
Instead of hurrying home, students lingered on the front lawn with their families, drinking Farmer’s Cow cider, after they were dismissed from Webster Hill Elementary School in West Hartford on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 22, 2015.
Thursday was fall farmers’ market day at Webster Hill, and students and families had the chance to purchase locally-grown produce and locally-prepared foods like soup, gnocchi, and sauce from Treva Restaurant and A’vert Brasserie, and baguettes from La Petite France.
A’vert/Treva Owner and Executive Chef Dorjan Puka personally attended the market along with his wife Mira, greeting families and talking about the local products.
Chef, nutritionist, and educator Rita Neal of “Cook Happy” also had a booth at the farmers’ market. She was passing out samples – along with recipes – of bruschetta made with swiss chard and onions that were grown at Holcomb Farm in West Granby and were also for sale at the market.
“Amazing!” said Webster Hill student Piper Patrissi as she descriibed her first taste of the bruschetta.
Webster Hill fourth-grader Will Keever was handing out samples of marinated cauliflower. “Mmm!” declared Emma Marcella as enjoyed the sample.
Growing Great Schools, which was formed in West Hartford in 2010 with the mission of creating “a culture of wellness by connecting food, health and the environment,” coordinates farmers’ markets each spring and fall at all 11 of West Hartford’s public elementary schools. This fall, the organization helped run markets at King Philip Middle School and St. Thomas the Apostle School as well.
Growing Great Schools will now have the ability to expand its mission even further, thanks to a $40,000 “Growing a Great Community” grant awarded by the Connecticut State Department of Education. State Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) attended Thursday’s market to announce the grant, which will extend over the next two fiscal years.
Bye praised the Growing Great Schools efforts to bring farmers’ markets to the schools. “This is healthy good food. The markets are good for the farmers and they’re good for your health,” she said.
“Because Growing Great Schools has done such a great job in West Hartford with the farmers’ markets and everything else that they do, we think they can expand,” Bye said. She thanked the parents and the families, who have supported the all-volunteer organization.
“This will allow us to expand farmers’ markets to preschools, middle schools, and at least one other community,” said Growing Great Schools Co-President Sally Mancini. She said she is also hoping to support more cooking classes utilitzing local food products, and education about eco-topics.
“Most of the schools already have gardens, but we want to create a school garden network around town and in the community,” Mancini said.
Growing Great Schools Co-President Muniba Masood said that the grant “allows us to not only provide health and wellness programs in West Hartford but to also take them to other communities. This gives us the financial strength to be able to look beyond.”
Following the grant presentation, Bye sat down on the ground with a group of students, and read aloud from the children’s book “Sophie’s Squash” – an appropriate selection for the day. Webster Hill Girl students helped out, one by holding the microphone and another by holding up a squash as a prop.
This is the fifth year that Growing Great Schools has hosted farmers’ markets at West Hartford schools. In addition to Puka, other well known local chefs also participated. Chris Torla, executive chef and partner/owner of Trumbull Kitchen celebrated the unveiling of the Duffy Elementary School garden patio, and Max’s Oyster Bar Executive Chef Hunter Morton was at the Aiken farmers’ market.
Growing Great Schools and Torla will also host a Healthy Harvest Brunch at Trumbull Kitchen on Nov. 8. Click here for more information and to register.
Growing Great Schools also hosts weekly salad bars at the town’s elementary schools and works closely with organizations such as 2-4-1 Sports and West Hartford Relay to actively raise funds for fitness programing.
For more information about Growing Great Schools, visit the organization’s website.
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