Kim Stoloski slices fresh tomatoes and cucumbers in the kitchen located off the cafeteria. The Sacred Heart Elementary and Early Childhood Center principal makes lunch for the teachers and staff every other Thursday and is using vegetables picked the day before from the school’s organic garden. Apronclad, she talks about the educational component of locally sourced food.
“We as educators have a responsibility to the whole child, which includes teaching them the value of healthy food choices,” Kim explains. “As a Catholic school, we have the added mission to teach them to be stewards and their role in taking care of the people around us,” she adds.
As we chat, the sound of excited chatter begins to grow from down the hallway. The school’s Parents’ Association has organized a special program for students featuring Terra Cura, a South Shore nonprofit specializing in garden planning, permaculture, and educational programs. Today, they’re helping students recognize the differences between local tomatoes and those grown thousands of miles away. An interactive demonstration about the steps involved in commercially sourced versus locally sourced produce is followed by a tomato tasting and a scavenger hunt in the garden.
“Experiencing food with all of their senses leads students to a better understanding and willingness to try new things,” says Terra Cura’s director, Jackie Millar. “We’re introducing a generation to this whole new way of thinking about the connections food creates between those who produce it and those who consume it.”
Stoloski and her staff see those “connections” as a teachable opportunity, too. “We are fortunate to have this fresh, healthy food source. As a faith-based community, it’s our job to ensure others have access to it as well,” the principal says.
This summer, Sacred Heart Elementary School teamed up with the South Shore Community Action Council (SSCAC) in Plymouth, a distribution center serving more than 47 area food agencies. On their first visit to the SSCAC, Stoloski and vice principal Sister Lydia Steele delivered nearly 100 pounds of fresh vegetables grown in the school gardens. Multiple return trips in the late summer and early fall with produce grown at the school further benefited those in need throughout the community.
“When I first began working here three years ago, the food was mostly canned foods or dried white pasta,” explains SSCAC Food Resource Manager Linda Rohr. “Thanks to local partners like Sacred Heart, we are able to offer higher quality items and a more healthy variety to people in need.”
Sacred Heart students carry out a mission of serving others in many ways, especially around the holidays. But nothing quite compares in such a tangible way to this donation of fresh food they grow themselves.
“Our students take seeds, plant them, care for them, and watch them grow,” Stoloski says. “When they see the outcome of their hard work benefits someone in need, they feel an even stronger connection to their act of giving. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what we’re trying to teach them.”
Sacred Heart Schools
399 Bishops Highway
Kingston, MA 02364
South Shore Community Action Council
71 Obery Street
Plymouth, MA 02360
Tatum McIsaac lives in Kingston, MA with her husband and two children who both attend Sacred Heart Elementary School. This past summer, the entire McIsaac family helped plant the 18 raised beds that make up the school’s new garden.