Good morning. Today, I'd like to talk about school snack.
That up there is Tristan Scott. I took his picture last April, during snacktime at Chilmark Elementary School, when I went over to Martha's Vineyard to do some interviews. It's taken me a while, but I've finally gotten through all the tape I collected that day, and this week's Local Food Report marks the first of three episodes on a program called Island Grown Schools.
Island Grown Schools is actually just one program of many run by a non-profit on the Vineyard called Island Grown Initiative that works to increase supply and demand for locally grown food on the island. It was founded in 2005, and in six short years, it's done quite a bit to get more local food into schoolyards and lunchboxes and cafeterias, including revamping snack time.
At most schools, there are two options: bring a healthy snack from home that's cold, or get something warm but generally less healthy from the cafeteria. IGI thought it might be nice if kids could buy something that was both healthy and warm, and locally made. So it started talking with a local baker, Julie Vanderhoop, and a new vision of snacktime was born.
It works like this: two mornings a week, the kids can bring in a dollar and put in an order for whatever it is Julie is making for snack. Then the school office calls Julie with a tally, and she bakes. Sometimes it's muffins—morning glory or blueberry or pumpkin with local fruits and vegetables and whole grains—or even scones or five grain rolls or whole wheat focaccia bread. While the baked goods are still hot, Julie trucks them over to the school, and meets the kids on the playground to hand them out. They wave and holler and thank her as they run around, she pays attention to see if they like whatever it is she's made, and then she waves and hollers goodbye and drives back the seven miles to her bakery in Aquinnah.
It's pretty cool. Ask any one of the kids and they can tell you Julie's name, and that she runs Orange Peel Bakery, and that on Wednesday nights she hosts a gathering for bring-your-own-topping pizza. Since February of 2010, which is when the program started in Chilmark, it's gotten so popular that Julie's started baking for the kids at West Tisbury Elementary, too. She says she gets an order for about 65 baked goods twice a week between the two schools. At a dollar a snack, the program works financially both for Julie and for most families, although she and IGI are talking about getting grant funding so that it's affordable for everyone.
I don't know what your school snack program was like, but mine was nothing like this. I remember danishes in plastic pouches, bagels slathered in cream cheese, and green blueberry muffins.
But the thing that struck me most about snacktime at Chilmark Elementary wasn't just that the snacks were warm and healthy. It was also the way it changed the outlook of the teachers and kids. Snack, for them, isn't something to rush through or forget. On the days when Julie bakes, it's something they look forward to, and appreciate. And when it comes to snack time, I'm not sure there's any better lesson than knowing your baker, and getting your muffin or roll or scone still warm, straight from her hand.
P.S. IGI is doing all kinds of other fantastic things to get local food into Vineyard schools. Read more about what they're doing—including hosting all-local school lunches, gleaning unharvested food from local farms for school cafeterias, and installing school gardens—over here!
JULIE VANDERHOOP'S FIVE GRAIN BREAD
This bread calls for a fermenting period of twelve hours, so start it the night before you want to bake. Julie makes it into rolls when she bakes it for the kids, but it also makes an excellent loaf of bread. (This recipe makes three loaves.) I'm typing this recipe out just as Julie did for me, so the format is a little different than what you usually see around here, but I think it makes the most sense. Enjoy!
In a medium bowl, stir together:
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon yeast
and set aside at room temperature, uncovered, for 10-12 hours.
The next morning, boil 1 and 1/2 cups water and pour into a medium bowl over:
1/2 cup steel cut rye
1/2 cup flax seed
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
In a large bowl, mix together:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 and 1/8 cup tepid water
1 and 1/2 teaspoons yeast
along with the flour and yeast mixture that's been sitting overnight and the grain and seed mixture. Mix until a wet dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a wet dishcloth, and let it rise in a warm area for one hour.
Grease three loaf pans. Working on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into three equal parts. Shape each piece into a rectangle to fit the pans. Place the dough in the pans and let it rise for another hour; then bake it at 475 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes.