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A fresh connection

st-Pat-veggie-webThanks to a national program and a pair of keen eyes, students at St. Patrick’s School in Terre Haute have an opportunity to eat fresh vegetables during lunch.

School cafeteria assistant Maureen Voll said she was reading an issue of HOPE Magazine when she came across an article about White Violet Center for Eco-Justice (WVC) and organic vegetables. She wanted the chance to see if students at St. Patrick’s would eat the fresh vegetables if they were offered.

So, she contacted WVC garden manager Candace Minster to discuss the proposal. At the time, WVC was in the process of becoming a certified organic establishment, but both WVC and the school had to get state approval for such a deal.

As it turns out, they did. Now, students at the school are not only offered the vegetables from the regular menu, but also fresh organic vegetables from WVC through the Farm to School program.

According to its website, Farm to School “enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.”

According to regulations under the United States Department of Agriculture, students are required to be served six ounces of either fruit or vegetables during every lunch period. Now, through the agreement with WVC, students at St. Patrick’s have the choice of either the vegetables served through the regular meal or the fresh WVC vegetables.

Voll said the school has received everything from tomatoes, squash, peppers of all colors, carrots, sweet potatoes, lettuce, green beans and more.

“It was a slow process to get the students interested,” she said. “But we’ve had the students try them. We had to explain what organic is, but it’s the student’s choice. That’s all you can ask of students: To try it.”

Voll picks up an order of the fresh vegetables weekly from WVC and takes them to the school. There, cooks in the cafeteria prepare them and sometimes create vegetables dishes for the students.

“We’ve started out small,” Voll said. “But we’re hoping as time goes by, these will be our vegetables of choice.

“This is a natural fit, the Sisters of Providence and St. Patrick’s. And Candace has been so willing to help us. I think it’s been successful. I think the students really like the vegetables.”

(Originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of HOPE magazine.)

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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