If you take a student to the farm stand, she will learn that fresh, local food is not only affordable and convenient, but nutritious and delicious. That’s the lesson learned today by a group of seventeen Mercy Learning Center students thanks to a Health Eating program cooked up by the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County.
The Junior League volunteers and I met with Sharon Sanford and her students at Mercy Learning Center and took a quick walk to the Marina Village farm stand where we were met with open arms by chef and food policy advocate Michel Nischan, who is Wholesome Wave’s president and CEO. As one of Wholesome Wave Foundation’s
core “Nourishing Neighborhoods” programs, the Neighborhood Farm Stand Program brings Park City Harvest farm stands deep within neighborhoods of under-served Bridgeport, Connecticut where shoppers can purchase CT grown fruit and produce using SNAP-EBT cards and Senior/WIC FMNP checks. Until last month shoppers were able to redeem their cards and checks for double their value in farm stand tokens. Wholesome Wave is working to secure funding to reinstate this Double Value Coupon program.
Heather Harrington, MS RD and Tina Dugdale, MS RN RD, both Extension Instructors from UCONN’s Department of AlliedHealth Sciences at the University of Connecticut, discussed the produce and fruit available at the farm stand and how to prepare it. My favorite part of this was hearing from the students themselves and how they used the vegetables in their native dishes. My mouth began to water thinking about the chile rellenos that
one student was going to make with the Poblano peppers. Another was planning to make fresh salsa using tomatoes, and jalapenos from the farm stand. Michel Nischan lent some great culinary advice: “Zucchini is great in salsa. Just sprinkle squash and zucchini with salt. Let it sit for 15 minutes to soften it up a bit. You can add it to salsa and it’s delicious! Pour it over pasta for a quick dinner.” The zucchini sold out today!
The students were clearly enjoying themselves and made quick work of shopping. One declared “I’m going to eat so delicious tonight!” as she stuffed her bags with zucchini, tomatoes, apples, corn, green beans, and chile peppers. When it was time to check out, each student was given a reusable shopping bag, courtesy of Wholesome Wave, a paper bag donated by Trader Joe’s of Fairfield, and $20 in tokens provided through funding from the Junior League.
I’m looking forward to returning to Mercy in November to work directly with the students in their teaching kitchen. They’re gathering their favorite home recipes for me to tweak with some healthier ingredients or cooking methods. They don’t know it, but I’m looking forward to learning
how to make dishes from their native countries, which span the globe and include Haiti and Peru, as much as I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with them.
When I asked the students to rate their experience at the market, the votes were unanimous. It’s a 10! I think we’ve got a winner.