Saturday June 9, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Early Friday morning, a local kitchen was bustling with prep work for the impending lunch rush -- avocados mashed for guacamole, bundles of lettuce being shredded for salads, and fresh summer squash and eggplant roasting for vegetarian wraps.

The kitchen wasn't at a downtown restaurant -- it was at Monument Mountain Regional High School.

The day's meals were part of a student-led initiative to host an all-locally sourced lunch. Before the lunch periods ended, all 180 veggie wraps were sold, while healthy chip alternatives and dips were quickly gobbled up.

It's believed to be one of the cafeteria's best-selling days in the closing weeks of the school year after seniors have graduated.

In December, sophomore Zoe Borden was among a group of students who held a meeting with state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and other state education and public health officials seeking to change the food offerings at the school. The students have worked feverishly since to make Friday's offerings a reality.

As Borden sat down during the second lunch period, she said she couldn't be more pleased with how things turned out.

"I want to cry with happiness," said Borden, 16. "I feel like I could smile forever because I'm so happy."

The student senate set aside $400 to buy wraps and vegetables from the Berkshire Co-op, and the Co-op donated additional food to help the cause. Twenty-seven students volunteered to get the lunch ready and served. Lettuce grown on campus by Project Sprout, the student-led farming program, was also used in the meals.

"The kids demonstrated that they can take some leadership in the food we serve," said Principal Marianne Young, "and work with adults in the building to make lunchtime a new kind of experience.

Monument Mountain student Ruthie Lee serves hummus during the local lunch Friday at the school.
Monument Mountain student Ruthie Lee serves hummus during the local lunch Friday at the school. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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Borden said she became interested in changing the lunch options because she saw a disconnect between the lessons taught in the classroom about the need to learn healthy eating habits and what was offered in the cafeteria. She said she wants to continue the initiative next year and make it a more regular offering.

There are some hurdles the school faces in expanding the local food options, including restrictions on students' involvement in the kitchen, packaging regulations and nutritional guidelines. But Young believes solutions can be found with creative thinking and continued partnerships with local businesses and farms.

"We just need to see what it costs us and how we look at the food service budget, and what it cost to run this one day," said Young.

Monument Mountain sophomore Zoe Borden was among a group of students who helped make the all-locally sourced lunch happen.
Monument Mountain sophomore Zoe Borden was among a group of students who helped make the all-locally sourced lunch happen. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"If it's not doable, we go back to the drawing board and keep working on it."

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
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