By Allegra Boverman
---- — It was a day in which a gourd became a star.
During the first lunch period at Veterans’ Memorial Elementary School on Wednesday, there was such a demand for seconds and thirds of this featured vegetable that organizers thought they’d run out, and there were still two more lunch periods to go.
Dressed as giant butternut squash, FoodCorps Service members Connie Chuensumran and Anna Swanson shouted, “What am I?” to students waiting in line to get their lunch. As part of the national Food Day, celebrated this week, they, along with the public schools’ food service, Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, local farmers, Backyard Growers and The Open Door, were introducing pupils to what for some might be a new, delicious and healthy vegetable.
Food Day celebrates healthy, sustainable, affordable food (www.foodday.org/). It’s also an opportunity to learn about local, seasonal, healthy food.
Chuensumran, serving with The Open Door, and Swanson, serving with Backyard Growers, were offering all the students samples of roasted butternut squash during lunch. Thanks to the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, the squash came from Mehaffey Farm in Rowley and Marshall’s Farm in Gloucester. There was a display of photos from each farm so kids could “meet the farmers” and see where their food had been grown.
Butternut squash is in season, available and affordable in area supermarkets and farmers markets, and can easily be grown at home, Chuensumran explained to students who were eagerly enjoying second and third helpings.
The butternut squash was roasted with olive oil and some salt and pepper and then dusted with brown sugar in some batches and cinnamon in others. And the kids ate it all up, few turning away from the vegetable that also tasted dessert-like.
Fifth-grader Richard Klyce tasted the squash with brown sugar and declared that it was “awfully delicious.”
Fourth-grader Ilyana Lorenzana was cheering, she loved the squash so much.
“It tastes like pure awesomeness,” she proclaimed — and she said it twice.
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy.
FoodCorps places these leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service with local partner organizations-such as The Open Door and Backyard Growers where they conduct hands-on food education, build and tend school gardens, and facilitate getting high-quality local food into public school cafeterias.
The food services employees at Gloucester Public Schools also wanted to promote the idea of cooking from scratch, so along with sampling the butternut squash, students at lunch on Wednesday were served barbecue chicken on the bone, roasted potatoes, corn and fresh fruit, said food service director Phil Padulsky, on hand for the event.
“Eat real today” and every day, he said.