A culinary online center dedicated to promoting the importance and the joy of American home cooking with an emphasis on local products and talent, celebrating the unique spirit and energy of the new food world ethos, especially in Vermont.

amuse bouche

I love quotes that add meaning to my life. Here are a few to live by:

How should I eat? (Not too much)
—Michael Pollan

If it is so difficult to learn to cook, how did all those early pioneer women manage to cross the country in rugged covered wagons and feed troops of people from one big pot hung over an open fire?
—Marion Cunningham, from Learning to Cook

Treat treats as treats.
—Michael Pollan

No matter how you slice it through, grain-fed meat production systems are a drain on the global food supply.
—Jonathan A. Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, U of MN

Farm to School – Not Just a Slogan

Common Roots in School Gardens with their eggplants

Common Roots Program students in their School Garden proudly display their eggplants.

Farm to School is such a simple idea. It first came to my attention when I lived in Washington, DC a decade ago. There, in the glow of a magical children’s garden at the National Arboretum, I watched the success of a program that helped school children connect with vegetables they had grown themselves. It was no surprise to me that ten years later Michelle Obama decided to make the idea even more visible by planting a similar garden on the White House Lawn.

When I moved to South Burlington, Vermont, it only seemed natural that in this farm state, parent groups were eager to initiate school gardens and cooking programs in schools. Now, with a national program called Farm to School Network, the movement has an official umbrella that helps local administrators manage programs destined to make life-long gardeners and cooks out of every student it reaches.

I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to food school programs that have caught my eye. In addition to the story below about a parent who started a food tsunami in South Burlington; there will be a story on a farm that changed the way the student body at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut thinks about food; and a unique cooking program at the University of Vermont that breaks down all the barriers between creativity and good food while teaching the reasons why.

Carol McQuillen and Common Roots

carolmcquillen

Carol McQuillen

Common Roots was established eight years ago, by a group of five parents and one teacher at a meeting at the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont. It was a group of parents inspired by a new way of thinking in both the state and in the country, a change in attitude about the value of good food for school children. The parents were Leah Mital-Skiff, Rob Skiff, Peter Jones, Terri Donovan, and Janet Stanbolian. The teacher was Carol McQuillen, an early education specialist.

In 2009, Common Roots was designated a not-for-profit organization. In four years it had become a significant force in the fight to bring food education to the greater Burlington, Vermont area. It is the story of those four years that are significant in describing an important development in the food world of my state, part of an unfolding story of good food in Vermont.

A Catalyst for Food Education

To tell the story of how Common Roots became such a catalyst for food education, I realized I had to find out more about Carol McQuillen. Last spring, I watched her with admiration as she negotiated with the South Burlington Fred H. Tuttle Middle School administrators to agree to an enlightened food system that would provide local food to grades 7 through 9. I was impressed by her organization and by the careful and diplomatic way she interacted with the school board, and was struck by the fact that what gave her so much “clout” was her single-minded focus. Food is important to Carol and not in a casual way.

Carol McQuillen’s first job as an educator was teaching special education in the town of Essex, Vermont. That was back when what the local school was feeding children wasn’t a question. Carol, like most parents, 20-odd years ago, wasn’t conscious of the sad state of affairs that had overwhelmed the educational food systems in most of the learning centers around the country. But this changed for Carol, when, after becoming a stay-at-home mother several years ago; she rejoined the local school district as an early education specialist.

Common Roots farm to school educator in classroom

A Common Roots farm to school educator in a classroom setting.

Corn Dogs and Other Choices

She found it contradictory to be teaching children a meaningful curriculum and, at the same time, posting on the blackboard the lunch selections that included corn dogs and other choices that contained little or no nutritional value. Carol says, “I realized if we don’t teach about food, we’re not educating our children.”

It took Carol seven years to find a group of like-minded people to help her build an organization that had the energy and the knowledge to change the South Burlington school system by educating its decision-makers to understand what seemed so obvious to her. “Good food is good learning,” she says.

The Health Concerns that Exist Today

Carol points out that besides the intrinsic value of teaching children about the value of good food, there is also the remarkable benefit of preventing future health problems. Statistics abound about the health concerns that exist today linked directly to American eating habits. The role of Common Roots extends to the value of healthy food as a preventive of medical problems, a factor that health experts agree with.

Today, Common Roots is a partner with the National Farm to School Network. It also helped to found the South Burlington Farmers Market and is a major force for cooking and nutrition classes at the local Orchard School as well as in providing an after school program of cooking and nutrition classes at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School.

Power of Produce Club

This past summer, the organization initiated participation in the POP Club (Power of Produce!), a national non-profit organization that offers children, ages five to twelve, membership in a buying club with perks. The $3 tokens, offered to each child who participates in the club every time they shop at the South Burlington Farmers Market, are part of a program that encourages buying and eating local and organic produce.

The 2013-14 budget for Common Roots includes line items not only for a food educator, but also for a part-time chef and a farm manager with a two-man farm staff. In addition there are two farm locations for the Common Roots program, a hoop house, and a greenhouse.

Common Roots group shot

Carol McQuillen with interns from S. Burlington H.S. and UVM, who grow and process food during the summer to sell to local school cafeterias for the next school year, to help fund the salaries of the Common Roots school educators

A Light Bulb Moment

Carol McQuillen’s light bulb moment—realizing that good food and good education are synonymous—has become a major change in the consciousness of the South Burlington school system, and is in perfect alignment with Vermont’s embrace of support for the local and organic farmers. I think that Carol would agree that Common Roots is an excellent example of community participation creating a happy ending for all involved, but most especially for the next generation!

A Bientot,

P.S. The South Burlington Farmers Market will be open for the next two weekends in the South Burlington High School Parking lot from 10 am to 2 pm with live music from 11 am to 1 pm. 

Posted: 10-5-2013

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      string(8959) "[caption id="attachment_2964" align="alignnone" width="509"]Common Roots in School Gardens with their eggplants Common Roots Program students in their School Garden proudly display their eggplants.[/caption]

Farm to School is such a simple idea. It first came to my attention when I lived in Washington, DC a decade ago. There, in the glow of a magical children’s garden at the National Arboretum, I watched the success of a program that helped school children connect with vegetables they had grown themselves. It was no surprise to me that ten years later Michelle Obama decided to make the idea even more visible by planting a similar garden on the White House Lawn.

When I moved to South Burlington, Vermont, it only seemed natural that in this farm state, parent groups were eager to initiate school gardens and cooking programs in schools. Now, with a national program called Farm to School Network, the movement has an official umbrella that helps local administrators manage programs destined to make life-long gardeners and cooks out of every student it reaches. I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to food school programs that have caught my eye. In addition to the story below about a parent who started a food tsunami in South Burlington; there will be a story on a farm that changed the way the student body at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut thinks about food; and a unique cooking program at the University of Vermont that breaks down all the barriers between creativity and good food while teaching the reasons why.

Carol McQuillen and Common Roots

[caption id="attachment_2966" align="alignleft" width="270"]carolmcquillen Carol McQuillen[/caption] Common Roots was established eight years ago, by a group of five parents and one teacher at a meeting at the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont. It was a group of parents inspired by a new way of thinking in both the state and in the country, a change in attitude about the value of good food for school children. The parents were Leah Mital-Skiff, Rob Skiff, Peter Jones, Terri Donovan, and Janet Stanbolian. The teacher was Carol McQuillen, an early education specialist. In 2009, Common Roots was designated a not-for-profit organization. In four years it had become a significant force in the fight to bring food education to the greater Burlington, Vermont area. It is the story of those four years that are significant in describing an important development in the food world of my state, part of an unfolding story of good food in Vermont. A Catalyst for Food Education To tell the story of how Common Roots became such a catalyst for food education, I realized I had to find out more about Carol McQuillen. Last spring, I watched her with admiration as she negotiated with the South Burlington Fred H. Tuttle Middle School administrators to agree to an enlightened food system that would provide local food to grades 7 through 9. I was impressed by her organization and by the careful and diplomatic way she interacted with the school board, and was struck by the fact that what gave her so much “clout” was her single-minded focus. Food is important to Carol and not in a casual way. Carol McQuillen’s first job as an educator was teaching special education in the town of Essex, Vermont. That was back when what the local school was feeding children wasn’t a question. Carol, like most parents, 20-odd years ago, wasn’t conscious of the sad state of affairs that had overwhelmed the educational food systems in most of the learning centers around the country. But this changed for Carol, when, after becoming a stay-at-home mother several years ago; she rejoined the local school district as an early education specialist. [caption id="attachment_2968" align="alignnone" width="512"]Common Roots farm to school educator in classroom A Common Roots farm to school educator in a classroom setting.[/caption] Corn Dogs and Other Choices She found it contradictory to be teaching children a meaningful curriculum and, at the same time, posting on the blackboard the lunch selections that included corn dogs and other choices that contained little or no nutritional value. Carol says, “I realized if we don’t teach about food, we’re not educating our children.” It took Carol seven years to find a group of like-minded people to help her build an organization that had the energy and the knowledge to change the South Burlington school system by educating its decision-makers to understand what seemed so obvious to her. “Good food is good learning,” she says. The Health Concerns that Exist Today Carol points out that besides the intrinsic value of teaching children about the value of good food, there is also the remarkable benefit of preventing future health problems. Statistics abound about the health concerns that exist today linked directly to American eating habits. The role of Common Roots extends to the value of healthy food as a preventive of medical problems, a factor that health experts agree with. Today, Common Roots is a partner with the National Farm to School Network. It also helped to found the South Burlington Farmers Market and is a major force for cooking and nutrition classes at the local Orchard School as well as in providing an after school program of cooking and nutrition classes at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. Power of Produce Club This past summer, the organization initiated participation in the POP Club (Power of Produce!), a national non-profit organization that offers children, ages five to twelve, membership in a buying club with perks. The $3 tokens, offered to each child who participates in the club every time they shop at the South Burlington Farmers Market, are part of a program that encourages buying and eating local and organic produce. The 2013-14 budget for Common Roots includes line items not only for a food educator, but also for a part-time chef and a farm manager with a two-man farm staff. In addition there are two farm locations for the Common Roots program, a hoop house, and a greenhouse. [caption id="attachment_2971" align="alignnone" width="520"]Common Roots group shot Carol McQuillen with interns from S. Burlington H.S. and UVM, who grow and process food during the summer to sell to local school cafeterias for the next school year, to help fund the salaries of the Common Roots school educators[/caption] A Light Bulb Moment Carol McQuillen’s light bulb moment—realizing that good food and good education are synonymous—has become a major change in the consciousness of the South Burlington school system, and is in perfect alignment with Vermont’s embrace of support for the local and organic farmers. I think that Carol would agree that Common Roots is an excellent example of community participation creating a happy ending for all involved, but most especially for the next generation! A Bientot, P.S. 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Farm to School is such a simple idea. It first came to my attention when I lived in Washington, DC a decade ago. There, in the glow of a magical children’s garden at the National Arboretum, I watched the success of a program that helped school children connect with vegetables they had grown themselves. It was no surprise to me that ten years later Michelle Obama decided to make the idea even more visible by planting a similar garden on the White House Lawn.

When I moved to South Burlington, Vermont, it only seemed natural that in this farm state, parent groups were eager to initiate school gardens and cooking programs in schools. Now, with a national program called Farm to School Network, the movement has an official umbrella that helps local administrators manage programs destined to make life-long gardeners and cooks out of every student it reaches. I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to food school programs that have caught my eye. In addition to the story below about a parent who started a food tsunami in South Burlington; there will be a story on a farm that changed the way the student body at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut thinks about food; and a unique cooking program at the University of Vermont that breaks down all the barriers between creativity and good food while teaching the reasons why.

Carol McQuillen and Common Roots

[caption id="attachment_2966" align="alignleft" width="270"]carolmcquillen Carol McQuillen[/caption] Common Roots was established eight years ago, by a group of five parents and one teacher at a meeting at the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont. It was a group of parents inspired by a new way of thinking in both the state and in the country, a change in attitude about the value of good food for school children. The parents were Leah Mital-Skiff, Rob Skiff, Peter Jones, Terri Donovan, and Janet Stanbolian. The teacher was Carol McQuillen, an early education specialist. In 2009, Common Roots was designated a not-for-profit organization. In four years it had become a significant force in the fight to bring food education to the greater Burlington, Vermont area. It is the story of those four years that are significant in describing an important development in the food world of my state, part of an unfolding story of good food in Vermont. A Catalyst for Food Education To tell the story of how Common Roots became such a catalyst for food education, I realized I had to find out more about Carol McQuillen. Last spring, I watched her with admiration as she negotiated with the South Burlington Fred H. Tuttle Middle School administrators to agree to an enlightened food system that would provide local food to grades 7 through 9. I was impressed by her organization and by the careful and diplomatic way she interacted with the school board, and was struck by the fact that what gave her so much “clout” was her single-minded focus. Food is important to Carol and not in a casual way. Carol McQuillen’s first job as an educator was teaching special education in the town of Essex, Vermont. That was back when what the local school was feeding children wasn’t a question. Carol, like most parents, 20-odd years ago, wasn’t conscious of the sad state of affairs that had overwhelmed the educational food systems in most of the learning centers around the country. But this changed for Carol, when, after becoming a stay-at-home mother several years ago; she rejoined the local school district as an early education specialist. [caption id="attachment_2968" align="alignnone" width="512"]Common Roots farm to school educator in classroom A Common Roots farm to school educator in a classroom setting.[/caption] Corn Dogs and Other Choices She found it contradictory to be teaching children a meaningful curriculum and, at the same time, posting on the blackboard the lunch selections that included corn dogs and other choices that contained little or no nutritional value. Carol says, “I realized if we don’t teach about food, we’re not educating our children.” It took Carol seven years to find a group of like-minded people to help her build an organization that had the energy and the knowledge to change the South Burlington school system by educating its decision-makers to understand what seemed so obvious to her. “Good food is good learning,” she says. The Health Concerns that Exist Today Carol points out that besides the intrinsic value of teaching children about the value of good food, there is also the remarkable benefit of preventing future health problems. Statistics abound about the health concerns that exist today linked directly to American eating habits. The role of Common Roots extends to the value of healthy food as a preventive of medical problems, a factor that health experts agree with. Today, Common Roots is a partner with the National Farm to School Network. It also helped to found the South Burlington Farmers Market and is a major force for cooking and nutrition classes at the local Orchard School as well as in providing an after school program of cooking and nutrition classes at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. Power of Produce Club This past summer, the organization initiated participation in the POP Club (Power of Produce!), a national non-profit organization that offers children, ages five to twelve, membership in a buying club with perks. The $3 tokens, offered to each child who participates in the club every time they shop at the South Burlington Farmers Market, are part of a program that encourages buying and eating local and organic produce. The 2013-14 budget for Common Roots includes line items not only for a food educator, but also for a part-time chef and a farm manager with a two-man farm staff. In addition there are two farm locations for the Common Roots program, a hoop house, and a greenhouse. [caption id="attachment_2971" align="alignnone" width="520"]Common Roots group shot Carol McQuillen with interns from S. Burlington H.S. and UVM, who grow and process food during the summer to sell to local school cafeterias for the next school year, to help fund the salaries of the Common Roots school educators[/caption] A Light Bulb Moment Carol McQuillen’s light bulb moment—realizing that good food and good education are synonymous—has become a major change in the consciousness of the South Burlington school system, and is in perfect alignment with Vermont’s embrace of support for the local and organic farmers. I think that Carol would agree that Common Roots is an excellent example of community participation creating a happy ending for all involved, but most especially for the next generation! A Bientot, P.S. The South Burlington Farmers Market will be open for the next two weekends in the South Burlington High School Parking lot from 10 am to 2 pm with live music from 11 am to 1 pm. " ["post_title"]=> string(36) "Farm to School – Not Just a Slogan" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(190) "I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to farm to school programs that have caught my eye. This one is focused on Common Roots, a nonprofit organization based in South Burlington, Vermont." 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Farm to School is such a simple idea. It first came to my attention when I lived in Washington, DC a decade ago. There, in the glow of a magical children’s garden at the National Arboretum, I watched the success of a program that helped school children connect with vegetables they had grown themselves. It was no surprise to me that ten years later Michelle Obama decided to make the idea even more visible by planting a similar garden on the White House Lawn.

When I moved to South Burlington, Vermont, it only seemed natural that in this farm state, parent groups were eager to initiate school gardens and cooking programs in schools. Now, with a national program called Farm to School Network, the movement has an official umbrella that helps local administrators manage programs destined to make life-long gardeners and cooks out of every student it reaches. I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to food school programs that have caught my eye. In addition to the story below about a parent who started a food tsunami in South Burlington; there will be a story on a farm that changed the way the student body at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut thinks about food; and a unique cooking program at the University of Vermont that breaks down all the barriers between creativity and good food while teaching the reasons why.

Carol McQuillen and Common Roots

[caption id="attachment_2966" align="alignleft" width="270"]carolmcquillen Carol McQuillen[/caption] Common Roots was established eight years ago, by a group of five parents and one teacher at a meeting at the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont. It was a group of parents inspired by a new way of thinking in both the state and in the country, a change in attitude about the value of good food for school children. The parents were Leah Mital-Skiff, Rob Skiff, Peter Jones, Terri Donovan, and Janet Stanbolian. The teacher was Carol McQuillen, an early education specialist. In 2009, Common Roots was designated a not-for-profit organization. In four years it had become a significant force in the fight to bring food education to the greater Burlington, Vermont area. It is the story of those four years that are significant in describing an important development in the food world of my state, part of an unfolding story of good food in Vermont. A Catalyst for Food Education To tell the story of how Common Roots became such a catalyst for food education, I realized I had to find out more about Carol McQuillen. Last spring, I watched her with admiration as she negotiated with the South Burlington Fred H. Tuttle Middle School administrators to agree to an enlightened food system that would provide local food to grades 7 through 9. I was impressed by her organization and by the careful and diplomatic way she interacted with the school board, and was struck by the fact that what gave her so much “clout” was her single-minded focus. Food is important to Carol and not in a casual way. Carol McQuillen’s first job as an educator was teaching special education in the town of Essex, Vermont. That was back when what the local school was feeding children wasn’t a question. Carol, like most parents, 20-odd years ago, wasn’t conscious of the sad state of affairs that had overwhelmed the educational food systems in most of the learning centers around the country. But this changed for Carol, when, after becoming a stay-at-home mother several years ago; she rejoined the local school district as an early education specialist. [caption id="attachment_2968" align="alignnone" width="512"]Common Roots farm to school educator in classroom A Common Roots farm to school educator in a classroom setting.[/caption] Corn Dogs and Other Choices She found it contradictory to be teaching children a meaningful curriculum and, at the same time, posting on the blackboard the lunch selections that included corn dogs and other choices that contained little or no nutritional value. Carol says, “I realized if we don’t teach about food, we’re not educating our children.” It took Carol seven years to find a group of like-minded people to help her build an organization that had the energy and the knowledge to change the South Burlington school system by educating its decision-makers to understand what seemed so obvious to her. “Good food is good learning,” she says. The Health Concerns that Exist Today Carol points out that besides the intrinsic value of teaching children about the value of good food, there is also the remarkable benefit of preventing future health problems. Statistics abound about the health concerns that exist today linked directly to American eating habits. The role of Common Roots extends to the value of healthy food as a preventive of medical problems, a factor that health experts agree with. Today, Common Roots is a partner with the National Farm to School Network. It also helped to found the South Burlington Farmers Market and is a major force for cooking and nutrition classes at the local Orchard School as well as in providing an after school program of cooking and nutrition classes at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. Power of Produce Club This past summer, the organization initiated participation in the POP Club (Power of Produce!), a national non-profit organization that offers children, ages five to twelve, membership in a buying club with perks. The $3 tokens, offered to each child who participates in the club every time they shop at the South Burlington Farmers Market, are part of a program that encourages buying and eating local and organic produce. The 2013-14 budget for Common Roots includes line items not only for a food educator, but also for a part-time chef and a farm manager with a two-man farm staff. In addition there are two farm locations for the Common Roots program, a hoop house, and a greenhouse. [caption id="attachment_2971" align="alignnone" width="520"]Common Roots group shot Carol McQuillen with interns from S. Burlington H.S. and UVM, who grow and process food during the summer to sell to local school cafeterias for the next school year, to help fund the salaries of the Common Roots school educators[/caption] A Light Bulb Moment Carol McQuillen’s light bulb moment—realizing that good food and good education are synonymous—has become a major change in the consciousness of the South Burlington school system, and is in perfect alignment with Vermont’s embrace of support for the local and organic farmers. I think that Carol would agree that Common Roots is an excellent example of community participation creating a happy ending for all involved, but most especially for the next generation! A Bientot, P.S. The South Burlington Farmers Market will be open for the next two weekends in the South Burlington High School Parking lot from 10 am to 2 pm with live music from 11 am to 1 pm. " ["post_title"]=> string(36) "Farm to School – Not Just a Slogan" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(190) "I’m dedicating the next few blog posts to farm to school programs that have caught my eye. This one is focused on Common Roots, a nonprofit organization based in South Burlington, Vermont." 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8 responses to “Farm to School – Not Just a Slogan”

  1. Lisa Farrell says:

    An inspiring article about inspiring, forward-thinking people. Makes me proud to be a Vermonter!

  2. Bronwyn says:

    Thank you, Lisa, and I agree with you. We live in Vermont because there are so many people who take action and are inspired in what they do!

  3. Will Bailey says:

    Makes me wish I was a Vermonter. I recently taught (2) essays in my college Composition class that are relevant to this issue: One was “ON Buying Local” by Katherine Spriggs. She outlines all the benefits of locally grown products staying local, not shipped all over. She pointed out that yes it would mean costing more and you wouldn’t always get what you want, when you want but the long term benefits would be worth it. The second was the essay by Barry Estabrook called “Selling the Farm”. It told the sad tale of Ken Borland (Vermonter) losing his 144 year old farm. Borland’s farm was in the Northeast Kingdom and he simply couldn’t make ends meet. Who was making all the money, turns out in was the milk distributor Dean Foods (+ 75 million the first quarter of 2009 alone). 33 other Vermont farms also went under in 2008-09. His point is the whole thing forces farmers to join big conglomerate businesses or cease operations and how this impacts families and the state as a whole.
    Both these essays underscore what you are saying in your piece. Feed the children well, get young people interested in farming, sell local and not only stop undermining our oldest and most solid industry (farming) but finally get a generation of kids to get their nutrients from the earth and not the kids vitamin bottle.

  4. There is so little optimistic, forward thinking news available right now, that this kind of article gives me hope. Bright shining faces growing good food and feeding people in our communities – it doesn’t get much better! Thank you Bronwyn!

  5. Bronwyn says:

    Thank you Christine and Will. I agree, it’s an optomistic story and one that flies in the face of farm closings in Vermont, as well as the Conservative ideal to close down as many programs as possible that help people live better lives. The children who experience the positive power that comes from community movements like Common Roots, and learn to grow and cook their own food become more empowered and more compassionate.

  6. […] P.S. This is the second of a three-part series on Farm to School programs. If you missed the first one, please see Farm to School: Not Just a Slogan. […]

  7. […] Farm to School – Not Just a Slogan published on Oct 5, 2013Fairfield Farm at The Hotchkiss School: Where Academics & Agriculture Meet , published on Oct 18, 2013 […]

  8. […] Be sure to read Farm to School: Not Just a Slogan and Fairfield Farm at The Hotchkiss School: Where Agriculture & Academics […]

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