School-to-table: Holy Trinity teams up with RI eatery, sharing student-grown produce
Originally posted on www.heraldnews.com
by Ashley Schuler
FALL RIVER — When it comes to finding fresh, locally sourced food, you’re likely familiar with the farm-to-table concept. But what about school-to-table?
Green thumbs at Holy Trinity School are getting their hands dirty growing leafy greens for the city school’s blossoming hydroponics program.
They reap the rewards in their daily lunches, and have now partnered with a local restaurant that is benefitting from the fruits of their labor.
Hydroponics was incorporated into Holy Trinity’s curriculum two years ago as part of their STEM program, with the help of grant funding. Since its inception, growing capabilities at the school have expanded to include both micro-greens and leafy produce.
While some folks may not think about what goes into the food they eat, the students on Lamphor Street are well-versed on just what it takes to put together their daily lunch salads.
“Our hydroponics program has been such a blessing for our students to learn first-hand about the importance of knowing how and where our food has been grown,” said Brenda Gagnon, principal of Holy Trinity School, in a press release.
At Holy Trinity, the success of the program has truly been a team effort. All students — pre-K through grade 8 — get in on the action.
Each student has their own class responsibilities to ensure the health of the produce. Middle school students bear most of the responsibility for keeping the plants healthy, such as making sure the equipment is functioning properly and harvesting produce at the right time.
For Gagnon, it’s a win-win on all fronts.
“All students, as young as our Pre-K 3, are able to watch the seedlings grow into produce and know that the salad at lunch came from this very building,” she said. “Moreover, this program has completely engaged our middle school students who have learned everything from pH & EC levels, to lighting spectrums, to molecular recipes and even time proper management.”
As the quantity and quality of Holy Trinity’s produce expanded and improved, they found they still had an abundance of food — even after incorporating it into school lunches.
So the program’s benefits are now being shared with the community.
Kevin Flynn, chief technology officer at Holy Trinity, reached out to local restaurants and offered to help supply them with leafy produce and microgreens.
It seemed a perfect fit for Rhode Island chef Richard Allaire, who is serving up student-grown greens on his plates at Metacom Kitchen in Warren.
“Our hydroponics program has gotten to the point where we are able to experiment with flavor profiles, such as a peppery flavor or a mild flavor,” Kevin Flynn said. “Or, we can grow produce based upon a new dish created by Chef Rick, as we grew lettuce that would pair nicely with a variety of dishes.”
Allaire has described Metacom Kitchen as a modern American bistro — modern in the way food is prepared, the way it’s handled and its contemporary ingredients.
Fun and unpretentious and accessible Metacom Kitchen in Warren is a modern American bistro
According to Allaire, since opening Metacom Kitchen at 322 Metacom Ave. in 2014 he has constantly experimented with new dish ideas, food combinations and flavors. He noted he was pleasantly surprised by initial samples he received from students.
“I was very impressed with the flavors and textures, which are so important when developing new menu creations,” Allaire said.
The other benefit, Allaire said, is that there is consistency in the high quality of the produce, which has translated into rave reviews from his restaurant patrons.
“I never need to worry that what I receive will be less than perfect and many of my regular customers have commented on the improved quality of the produce and micro-greens,” he said. “It has been such a pleasure to work with Holy Trinity knowing that students are learning about the importance of growing high-quality, chemical-free foods.”
So how does it get from the school to diners’ tables?
The time from germination to harvest is about seven to 10 days for most microgreens and two full weeks for heads of lettuce, according to Holy Trinity. This quick growing time allows their middle school students to test varying pH and EC levels, which affect the flavor of the produce, and ensure the proper nutrient schedule for each variation.