Marquez Celebrates Farm to School Month With Fresh Fare

By JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter

Marquez Charter Elementary School hosted a Farm to School celebration on October 31 and November 1—handing out fresh fruit in front of the school in the morning before classes began.

The event, originally scheduled for Monday, October 28, had to be rescheduled due to the fires, school closures and evacuations. But, despite all the hurdles, the event was a success.

School Principal Benjamin Meritt shared that it’s “cool” to see the students and parents getting excited about eating fruit.

“The goal is to get students to eat healthier and organic, if possible,” Meritt said to the Palisadian-Post.

Vendors from the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market (G Farms, Frecker Farms and John Givens Farms) and Santa Monica Farmers Market (Harry’s Berries) donated to Marquez for the second year in a row in honor of their 2019 produce giveaway during October’s National Farm to School month.

As part of the Farm to Table program, volunteers set up in front of the school in the morning. Students and their families, along with a few community members walking their dogs, popped by and ate pears, apples, grapes, plums, strawberries, along with carrots and a few other vegetables.

“Delicious and fresh and everybody enjoyed every bit of it,” said Lindy Refnes, parent of a Marquez fourth-grader who stopped by the celebration before giving a school tour to prospective parents.

“It’s such a treat to have anything fresh, it’s really amazing for our school,” Refnes continued. “I think it also gets people to go out to the farmers markets because people were asking who the farmers are and they were told. The fresh food like this lasts and stays fresh as if it was just picked.”

Thousands of schools across the country participate in celebrating food education, school gardens and eating local healthy ingredients at lunch, according to the Farm to School Network website, with 42% of U.S. schools involved in the program.

“I use some of the donated produce in cooking lessons, such as we’re making salad in two classes,” said Marie Steckmest, garden coordinator and UCCE master gardener, to the Post.

Children were also offered pineapple guavas from Steckmest’s tree.

“The National Farm to School month is part of the Edible Garden program at Marquez,” Steckmest explained. “Children learn what fruit and vegetables grow in warm season and cool season. Throughout the year, students are exposed to growing, planting seeds, eating vegetables and this is part of the program.”

The Edible Garden program strives to show children where their food comes from and encourages them to eat healthy, according to its website. More information is available at marquezschoolediblegarden.blogspot.com.