Students at North Frederick Elementary School went to lunch as usual on Wednesday, but they were met with a farmer and hundreds of freshly-picked apples.
“Someone’s here and they’re giving us samples of apples,” first-grader Ellie McFarland said.
The Farm to School program, which aims to bring local produce into county cafeterias, conducted a taste test for students using two apple varieties straight from the Catoctin Mountain Orchard.
While the orchard has provided apples to schools for more than a decade, these apples are coming in a new form to help minimize waste.
“We’re doing something a little different. We don’t usually wedge our apples, but we took our orange wedger and we’re wedging the apples to see if the kids will eat more of it. Sometimes some of the apple goes in the trash and we’re hoping but wedging them, the kids will eat more of the apple, and less will go in the trash,” explained dietician for Frederick County Public Schools, Monica Skidmore.
And officials say the visit from farmer Katlyn Robertson allows students to engage with a female farmer and learn about the four-generation farm in Thurmont.
“Her great-grandfather was running the place first. It’s kind of historical and nice,” explained second-grade student, Aiden Rodriguez.
Robertson also brought in a piece of the orchard to show how apples grow and end up on their plates.
“I have some tree branches that I bring for the kids to show; I really want them to know where their fruit comes from. Apples grow on trees [and] most kids are like “Oh, we get them in the grocery store,” Roberston explained.
Back in the classroom, students will be asked about whether or not they liked the apples and these results will be considered in the farm to school action plan that will integrate locally grown fruits and vegetables at five pilot schools in the future.
The Farm to School program is coordinated by non-profit Community FARE and began after the organization was awarded a grant by the USDA.
The Action Plan aims to bring local produce to five elementary schools: Lincoln, Hillcrest, Monocacy, North Frederick and Waverly.
Officials say the program will host two more taste tests in schools later this year.