Produce changes children’s outlook


Lucie Rutherford

Elementary school student bite into a pepper.

Lucie Rutherford, Editor-in-Chief

As it is for many children under the age of 10, fresh vegetables are not something these kids want touching their taste buds. The first-graders at Spotswood Elementary School are no exception. As part of the annual Farm-to-School Week, Lindsey Lennon and Sam Berenstain, workers for the nonprofit educational farm Project Grows, are looking to change these students’ minds. At least, some of them.

“We are tasting peppers and we’re going to also show the kids green beans…they’ve seen them broken up or out of a can, but the fresh, whole vegetable is a new experience sometimes,” Lennon said.

Project Grows is a 10 acre farm located in Augusta County, just south of Harrisonburg. Lennon, the educational coordinator of the group, enjoys helping out the community.

“We started as a place for kids to come out and learn about where food comes from, how it’s grown. Our goal is to have food education, distribution and access into the community,” Lennon said. “We sell to farmers’ markets and restaurants, but we also donate a large portion of our food to events like this; for schools, to a food bank, to the Boys and Girls Club, anyone in the community that would want to eat our food.”

Oct. 7 marked the group’s first time in a Harrisonburg school, though they have previously done many tastings with Staunton City, Augusta County and Waynesboro City Schools.

Lennon and Berenstain made their way around each lunch table during the first-graders lunch, both with a heaping bowl of colorful peppers in hand. Despite some of the kids’ persistence in trying the vegetable, many others took the leap of faith, a few of the kids even giving a double thumbs up after biting into their bright pepper.

“[We want them] to try something new,” Lennon said. “A lot of times, depending on what produce we bring in, it’s sometimes a thing the kids have never eaten before, never tried… Yesterday we did some taste tests with similar peppers as we’ll do today, and a parent who was there said ‘I could never get my kid to eat a pepper before, but he ate two peppers today’. So just getting them to experience [produce] in a new way, and getting them outside their comfort zone a little bit to try something new, getting them used to fresh fruits and vegetables [is the goal].”