There is no question that harvest time has hit the Island. There are , pumpkin festivals, , —you get the picture. But planning for harvest is not just a couple-weeks-of-the-year affair for many here on the Island. All summer long, folks have been putting up cans of beans and tomatoes and freezing peas and corn all in preparation for what is ahead: Winter.
The people behind the Island Grown Initiative’s Island Grown Schools (IGS) are no exception. Through their organized gleaning and processing program, tens of thousands of pounds of fresh, grown-in-the-Island-sun food is stored and ready for kids to eat all year long. That means that during those dark, cold months ahead, they will still be eating food grown in their back yards, by farmers who are their neighbors.
While the official Harvest for Students Week in Massachusetts happened early in September, IGS has decided to push back Harvest Week to next week so as not to interfere with the start to the school year. “All of our Island schools are planning our own kind of harvest week, the week of October 17th,” said Noli Hoye Taylor, Island Grown Schools coordinator. “Every school will be serving special local meals next week that highlight what we have available in the season on the Island. This will be the first of a series of four Harvest Meals weeks we're doing this year, in October, December, April, and June.
"The Island Grown Gleaners have taken their hard work to the next level, doing their first volunteer processing day of gleaned foods this fall. “About 15 people came in to and  kitchens to chop tomatoes and wash and bag green beans for the schools, limiting the number of staff hours the schools have to devote to processing this fresh produce, and preparing it for their use through the fall and winter. It was so fun! Everyone had a great time,” said Taylor.
Meanwhile, the schools are already regularly sourcing local produce. According to Taylor, “This is a huge step forward from a few years ago, and is thanks to the dedication of the food service workers, our island farmers, our gleaning volunteers, and more. Julie Sierpetowski has started the Produce Connection, which brings fresh produce from Island farms to our school cafeterias. Five farms (, , , , and the ) are all offering steep discounts on their produce to the schools, making local produce cost competitive with off-Island foods.”
Additionally, kids can expect food grown directly in their school’s own gardens to be on their plates this year and throughout the year. According to IGI, the average American meal travels nearly 1,500 miles before it reaches its final destination. We all know the Vineyard is no average place, but it is lovely to think of our youngest eating meals that, in many cases have traveled at most, 15 miles and perhaps just 15 feet.
These results are due entirely to the tireless efforts of the folks at IGI and the community that support them. And according to Taylor, “Now, when I go into the school kitchens, the cafeteria directors show me all the food they have stored up in their freezers from the Island's bounty. It is truly inspirational!”
For more information about your schools Harvest Week activities and meals, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the school directly.