November 28, 2021

Food program backs farmers; spurs rethinking of school meals

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Linda Peck, a teacher’s aide with the Groton Central School District, hands Claire Hewitt, 11, a meal bag Friday as part of Healthy Fun Friday at Groton’s Main Street pavilion.

GROTON — Summertime is the best time of year for fresh fruit and vegetables.

“This time of year, especially, you have so much local fruits and vegetables and I’m all about supporting the local farmers in town” as much as possible, said Kelley Neville, the food services director for the Groton Central School District.

To take advantage of that and to help change how school meals are viewed, Neville and other district officials have been providing fresh, local produce for the past two Fridays during Healthy Fun Fridays, including a vegetable dip made with cucumbers and Greek yogurt or pico de gallo.

The group hands out bags with breakfasts and lunches weekday mornings to children at the pavilion on Main Street as part of the National School Lunch Program, Neville said. On Healthy Fun Fridays, a fresh dish is prepared and added to the bags along with its recipe.

Healthy Fun Friday was started because Neville wanted to help provide fresh food to local children and to change the way people thought of school meals as being mostly processed food.

By adding recipes for the fresh foods, she hoped it would also help make children and parents more confident in their cooking skills and give them something to do during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I got a lot of good responses,” she said of the first Healthy Fun Friday.

She also shared the recipe of the dip online so others could make it as well.

Parents in Groton also appreciated the program.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Katie Parker, who was picking up meals with her children Jameson Dellow, 7, and Jasieannah Dellow, 3.

Parker said she liked how the program provided meals for her children when she might not have time to cook and the fresh produce was an added bonus.

“She’s my fruit baby,” Parker said, referring to Jasieannah.

“I think it’s great because it’s nice to try new things,” said Maria Montreuil, who was picking up food for three of her four children. She liked that it helped get them to try new foods.

“Even if they don’t like it, they’re trying it, which is difficult to do for them,” she said.

The program will run until Aug. 14, at which point members from the town’s food pantry might continue on a similar program, though details haven’t been set yet, Neville said.