Tasting Tables bring farms to the classroom

Pears trump tomatoes in the school cafeterias, according to OSU Extension Service’s Lauren Kraemer, after the latest tasting table events in Hood River Schools.

“They are liking the pears a lot more than they did the tomatoes,” she said.

The tasting tables are a monthly event sponsored by OSU Extension and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) education program. Co-sponsors include Gorge Grown Food Network, who helps to access the food, the Hood River County School District, who helps to coordinate with teachers and cafeteria staff, and FISH Food Bank.

The October event was held in conjunction with International Food Day, so the kids at Mid Valley Elementary School had some extra projects in celebration of the day. After tasting the pears, the students were invited to sign pledges to make half of their plate fruits and veggies. Most did; some couldn’t make that promise.

“The younger ones were happy to sign the pledge posters,” Kraemer said. “The older ones were more like, ‘Hmmm, what am I signing up for here?’” she laughed.

“This is a Farm-to-School and Nutrition program that helps to promote a strong message to youth which is: Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Veggies!” Kraemer said. “By encouraging kids to eat more fruits and veggies, and try things that they can easily access in their own community, we hope to influence their and their parents’ behavior.

“Many kids at every tasting table ask what variety of product it is that we are sampling and we are able to tell them which farmer or local store carries the product, so they can ask their parents to buy it for them,” Kraemer said. “The overarching goal is really to get kids to eat healthier and build strong healthy eating habits!

“We will sample a new fruit or vegetable each month,” she said. September featured tomatoes, October, pears, and November will try the kids out on kale.

After skipping over December, the tasting tables will resume in January with potatoes, followed in February with winter squash, March with mushrooms, April with salad greens, May with peas and June with asparagus.

“We recognize that some of our foods will be new for many kids and we hope that is a good thing!” Kraemer said. “By starting with familiar foods like tomatoes and pears we are hoping to work our way up to more new foods like kale, winter squash and mushrooms. These foods will be prepared on site in front of the kids so they can see how to quickly pan-fry or roast the foods.”

At Mid Valley, art teacher Peggy Dills Kelter was approached by Hollis Dunlop, the event coordinator, to do some type of “food” project with her art students in honor of International Food Day. They settled on still-lifes.

“Gorge Grown supplied part of the setup, and local farmers supplied the rest,” Kelter said. “We talked a lot about how all the foods they were drawing were locally grown, and I shared with them that when I was a painter, I always ate my still-life setups after I painted them — they thought that was hilarious! I told them they couldn’t eat our still-lifes (although one teacher took part of mine home one night and made stew — she thought it was giveaway produce!)”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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