Check out our monthly ideas and tips for registered sites. These tips include best practices and innovative ideas for the development of your Harvest of the Month program.
SUMMER FEEDING PROGRAM TIPS AND INFORMATION
Linking summer feeding and summer garden programs to Harvest of the Month is an opportunity to grow or purchase locally at the height of the season!
For sites who feed or garden during the summer months utilizing a Harvest of the Month program can be very advantageous!
AUTUMN FEEDING PROGRAM TIPS AND INFORMATION
Johnny Appleseed, A hero of American folklore!
A hero of American folklore, Johnny Appleseed was said to be a barefoot wanderer with a tin pot hat, and a sack of apples, so he might leave the start of trees everywhere he went. But unlike his tall tale colleagues Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Appleseed’s story was based on a real man. His name was John Chapman, and his real life was far richer and more interesting than his legend.
You can still visit one of his trees in Nova, Ohio. This site is home to a 176-year-old tree, the last known to be planted by Johnny Appleseed himself. It grows tart green apples, which are now used for applesauce and baking in addition to cider making. While Chapman might be glad to see his seeds still bearing fruit, he’d likely be sad to hear this tree is a noted bud source for grafting new apple trees. You can read more about John Chapman at: MentalFloss.com
March’s featured fruit is APPLES! Regional/local apples are a winter storage crop and are grown in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, and in Missouri, (for our western and southern Illinois schools!). There are two companies selling sliced regional apples (when available) to schools: Richland Hills Farms in Wisconsin and Peterson Farms in Michigan. Check with your produce distributor to order. If you cannot get these pre-cut products try contacting the companies directly to locate a distributor near you.
We have a new recipe!! Apple Crunch Salad
- Several studies have looked at the effect of apples on risk factors for heart disease. One of the studies, done in hamsters, showed that apples can reduce total cholesterol levels and lead to drastic reductions (48%) in plaque buildup inside the arteries. If these animal studies were to apply to humans, it would mean that apples could be highly useful in helping to prevent cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes).
- Apples contain many vitamins and minerals, but not in high amounts. However, apples are usually a good source of vitamin C.
- Vitamin C: Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a common antioxidant in fruits. It is an essential dietary nutrient that has many important functions in the body (12).
- Potassium: The main mineral in apples. High intake of potassium may have beneficial effects on heart health.
- The pectin in apples is a probiotic, providing food for friendly gut bacteria.
- The phytochemicals in apples provide as much antioxidant health-protected capacity as a mega-dose of vitamin C.
- Nutrition Summary: One medium apple, about the size of a baseball, delivers all this:
- One-fifth of the dietary fiber you should be eating each day for cardiovascular and digestive health. That’s more than a bowl of bran cereal – and better tasting, too.
- None of the bad stuff- no fat, no saturated fat, no trans fat, no sodium and no cholesterol. Apples are guilt-free!
- Small amounts of vitamin C, the best-known antioxidant vitamin.
- Small amounts of potassium, an electrolyte that’s key for heart health.
- All that, and only 80-100 calories depending on the variety.
Featured recipe: Squish Squash Lasagna
Cooking and Prep Level: Intermediate
Recipe Type: Food service
This recipe showcases a simple cutting method for leafy greens such as spinach, or leafy fresh herbs- Chiffonade: creating thin ribbons by cutting stacks of multiple leaves all at once with a sharp knife.
When butternut squash is incorporated into recipes it adds a creamy and slightly sweet, nutty flavor to the dish. Try adding this mellow squash to any pasta dish, or make a butternut soup.
butternut squash fun fact
butternut squash nutrition facts
- Go to the Harvest of the Month website. Hover your mouse over the Feeding Sitestab at the top of the home page. Click on The Harvest in the drop down menu
- Click on Autumn to go to the seasonal list of fruits and veggies.
- Next, click on a veggie or fruit item, add your password if prompted, and the nutrition and fun facts are all there to copy and paste onto your line signage and wall posters!
WINTER PROGRAM TIPS AND INFORMATION
Valentine Celebrations with Beets!
If your students aren’t eating your Harvest of the Month monthly veggies providing a little fun on your lunch lines and education to improve your customer response could be the boost your program needs! Let’s face it, beets are not an easy sell to school-age children. Building a celebration sprinkled with fun education can influence your students and help to gain acceptance of these earthy beauties!
Here are a few examples of this technique.
- Beets used as a dye: Cutting beets into simple shapes and using them as a stamp is a great way to decorate serving line and cafeteria signage. Fun facts with red beet hearts stamped all around will draw student interest. (photo courtesy of www.parentmap.com)
- Creating temporary tattoos for students in the shape of a red heart that are a safe and fun way to celebrate this dark, red vegetable during February.
- “Will You Beet My Valentine?” This is a fun and inexpensive way to promote your February Harvest of the Month. Create a theme lunch for younger students, such as k-5 with a sweetheart beet promotion!
- “With Every Beet of My Heart” is a wonderful way to tie beets to that popular February holiday! Create signage in the form of giant beet love valentines to paper your wall space using beet stamps cut into the shape of hearts.
- Veggie Love Is In the Air! Utilizing a Valentine theme can provide a fun learning opportunity in the lunchroom and in the classroom. Themed lunch celebrations also increase participation numbers, which is something we can all appreciate!
- “Pickle Me Pink!“ Sharing how foods were preserved in the past by serving pickled local beets with a side of education on the preserving process is a sure win. Adding these pickled beauties to a themed Valentine celebration may be the catalyst you need to encourage kids to taste something new. Our Quick Pickled Beets recipe can take the center stage on salad bars, a special mainline salad or in cold sandwich lunches throughout February!
Feautured Recipe: Winter Sunset Salad, A beautiful fresh salad with the colors of a winter sunset- a great way to get your students to try beets!
For a colorful and healthy salad try Winter Sunset Salad as your Harvest of the Month recipe! This recipe is rated BASIC for prep skills and utilizes canned mandarin oranges, as well as red or gold beets.
We have more cold and hot beet recipes including Quick Pickled Beets, Beets and Sweets, and Roasted Balsamic Beets for food service. If you want to avoid the red staining that can occur with Red Ace beets look for Chioggia (Candy Stripe) or golden beets. Chioggia beets, pictured below, have an amazing striped color and a very mild flavor. Golden beets are sweeter than the standard red beet and do not stain surfaces. Either beet makes a delicious and nutritious addition to a cold salad.
Warm Up! with Harvest of the Month
The holidays are over and schools are settling back into their routine. It’s time to catch your student customers attention and bring them back into the lunch lines with Harvest of the Month!
Regional/local apples are a winter storage crop and are grown in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, and in Missouri, (for our western and southern Illinois schools!). There are two companies selling sliced regional (when available) apples to schools: Richland Hills Farms in Wisconsin and Peterson Farms in Michigan. Check with your produce distributor to order. If you cannot get these products try contacting the companies directly to locate a distributor near you.
Great winter veggies would be any root crop, such as parsnips, sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, winter/hard squash, such as butternut, carnival and acorn varieties. If you are looking for a fruit, how about dried cranberries? Did you know Wisconsin has produced the largest crop of cranberries — currently, about 59% of the United States’ total production since 1995? 99% of Wisconsin cranberries are sold to Ocean Spray destined to become juice, dried cranberries, and fresh cranberries which are available through the holidays. If you need fun facts, nutrition facts or recipes for a vegetable or fruit that is not listed on the website please contact us!
Featured Recipe: Cranberry Apple Coleslaw, hitting the trifecta of monthly featured foods!
For a colorful and healthy treat try Cranberry Apple Coleslaw as your Harvest of the Month recipe. This recipe is rated Basic for prep skills and has a sweet and tart crunch your students will love!
Healthy Celebrations with Harvest of the Month
Change the Celebration Focus to Healthier Choices
On the Meal Lines
- New! (Your district name) (your district’s mascot) Ranch Carrot Fries are available today on the lunch line!
- Limited Time Only! (Your district name) (mascot) Fiesta Carrot Fries are available today on a lunch line near you! Add some spice to your holidays!
SPRING PROGRAM TIPS AND INFORMATION
A great spring veggie is Spinach and this fantastic food is a powerhouse of
nutrition! There are several ways to share and promote spinach during tastings and in the cafeteria.
Leaf It to Spinach!
Create Leafy People Posters
Create promotional posters for the cafeteria and halls using a spinach leaf design as the torso for whimsical Leaf People. Advertise your special menu days and share fun facts about spinach in a playful and colorful way
Grow Sponge Sprouts!
Display spinach sprouts grown on everyday sponges on the lunch lines and on tasting tables. You can even cut the sponges into a spinach leaf design before sprouting your spinach seeds! Sponge Sprouts can be utilized as a great classroom activity. Step by step directions can be found here.
FYI: Sponges cut into shapes and dipped in poster paint make a great stamp for posters and fun fact cards!
Spinach Has Super Powers!
Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrition. Create stick-figure superhero characters based on the superpowers of spinach and display them on your line and in the cafeteria. You can list each “green superpower” on a separate poster for your cafeteria walls or share these superpowers on individual sneeze-guard cards.
You can find spinach superpowers here.
Need help with veggie promotion and education? University of Illinois Extension educators have resources they can share to build interest and promote veggie education. Contact your UI EXT educator here for ideas.
Cooking and Prep Level: Complex.
USDA Meal Components: 2 oz Meat/Meat Alternative, 2 oz Equivalent Whole Grains, ½ c Dark Green Vegetable, ¼ c Red/Orange Vegetable.
This recipe combines Mexican seasonings with USDA chicken and salsa to create a cheesy, yummy entree that’s sure to please your student customers!
Don’t forget to advertise your entree!
What has cheesy, smokey chicken combined with tender, local spinach leaves, and a spicy kick? Harvest of the Month Super Spinach & Chicken Quesadillas!
More SPINACH recipes for Spring:
For School Families
You can check out all our Spinach recipes here!
Spinach & Balsamic Strawberry Salad
Spinach Fun Fact: A Veggie with a Long History.
Spinach is an annual edible flowering plant whose leaves we use for nourishment since the ancient times. It can grow up to 30 cm in height and its leaves can have a width of up to 15 cm and length of 30 cm. Its seed comes from very small fruits (10 mm in radius) which in turn come from equally small flowers (5 mm).
Spinach’s place of origin is ancient Persia or today’s Iran and surrounding countries. From there it crossed into India, but it is not known who brought it there. Ancient Chinese got it from India and gave it a name “Persian vegetable”. There we find the first written mentioning of the spinach which says that it came to China via Nepal somewhere around the year 647. Saracens (which was how Europeans called Muslims during the later medieval era) brought spinach to Sicily in the year 827.
The first texts to mention spinach in the Mediterranean region were written in the
10th century, and there were three of them. One was a medical text written by Rhazes in the West while the other two were agricultural texts by Ibn Waḥshīyah and Qusṭus al-Rūmī. Ibn Ḥajjāj also wrote about spinach in the 11th century.
During the times when the Arabs held the Mediterranean, spinach was very popular and over time spinach came to Spain. The great Arab agronomist Ibn al-ʻawwām called it “the chieftain of leafy greens” in his texts, which shows the high regard in which he held this plant. Germany knew about the prickly-seeded variant of spinach by the 13th century. Smooth-seeded spinach appeared in the 16th century and was described for the first time in 1552. Spinach came to England and France in the 14th century from Spain. It became very popular there because it grew in spring when there were no other vegetables capable of growing in cold weather during that period of history. Spinach became a food of choice during Lent, as well.
The English cookbook, The Forme of Cury, was the first book to mention spinach. This book, written by the Master Cooks of King Richard lll, is the oldest, surviving English cookbook.
When Catherine de’ Medici became queen of France in 1533, spinach again gained in popularity. She liked it so much that she ordered it prepared for every meal. Catherine de’ Medici was born in Florence and because of that, even today, cuisines made with spinach are known as “Florentine.”
During the First World War, French soldiers suffering from hemorrhages were given wine mixed with juices from spinach. During those times, spinach was cultivated in more useful variants.
Adapted from: Vegetablefacts.net
Here are more Spinach fun facts from our website. These can be utilized in fun meal line signage to draw attention to your Harvest of the Month!
Spinach Fun Facts:
Spinach is a cool season crop and belongs to the goosefoot family along with Swiss chard and beets. Spinach is a native plant of Persia (modern day Iran). It was introduced to China in the 7th century. It was most probably brought to Europe in about the 12th century and to the US in 1806. Reflecting its origin, spinach is still widely known in China as “the Persian Green”. There are many varieties of spinach, though they mostly fall into three distinct groups: Savoy (Dark green, crinkly and curly leaves. Commonly found in supermarkets.), Flat/smooth leaf spinach (Most commonly used for canned and processed spinach products, though “baby spinach” also fits in this group. Easier to wash and clean than Savoy.), and Semi-savoy (Hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves. It has the same texture as savoy, but it is not as difficult to clean.)
In the 1930’s U.S. spinach growers credited Popeye, a cartoon character, with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption – a welcome boost to an industry during the depression era. The spinach growing town of Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue of the cartoon character, Popeye, in 1937.
Spinach Nutrition Facts:
These nutrition facts can be added to middle/high school meal lines and cafeteria signage to educate, as well as, draw attention to your Harvest of the Month! Sharing your Harvest of the Month activities with other school staff can lead to multiple exposures for your featured fruit or veggie. The more exposure kids have to a new fruit or veg, the more likely they are to accept it! Carrots may not be an issue with kids, but applying this technique to other, less popular veggies like squash or spinach can be the difference between acceptance and total disinterest.