Columbus Family Academy Students Love Their Greens

Homegrown lettuce serves dual purpose for New Haven schools, students
 
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
 
By Pamela McLoughlin, Register Staff
pmcloughlin@nhregister.com
 
Courtesy of www.nhregister.com
 

NEW HAVEN — Elementary school students at Columbus Family Academy noticed something extra fresh Tuesday about the lettuce at the cafeteria salad bar.
 

But school officials saw meaning well beyond the crisp, curly leaves.
 

The lettuce was grown hydroponically, in water rather than soil, by students in the Sound School’s agricultural science and technology program. Students grew the lettuce at the program’s satellite location at Pardee Greenhouse in Hamden.
 

Tuesday morning, they harvested 1,000 heads, which were delivered before lunch to Columbus. The lettuce will be shared with the other two elementary schools that have a cafeteria salad bar.
 

At Columbus, the greens were on the salad bar just hours after being harvested.
 

Chef Timothy Cipriano, executive director of food services for the schools, said there was a nice connection between a student and his or her lettuce.
 
 
“It’s grown by students to feed students,” Cipriano said. “We’re teaching kids to get their hands dirty,” and help other students.
 

Chas Mavrelion, coordinator and teacher of the agricultural program, said his students loved raising the lettuce and seeing that it would help children in the community.
 

Mavrelion said they’ve been harvesting vegetables, including peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs, from the fields for schools for two years, but this was the first time they’ve shared something grown in the greenhouse.
 

“I think they taste better because the nutrients are readily available,” Mavrelion said.
 

Children in the school’s first lunch wave agreed the greens were better than the chopped iceberg lettuce usually offered.
 

“It tastes good,” said Joselin Malla, 10, a fourth-grader, as she sank her teeth into a leaf the length of her tray. “I try to get a little lettuce every day.”
 

As Geovanni Colon, 9, folded a big hunk of the green stuff onto his hamburger, a table mate, referring to lettuce left on the plate, asked, “Can I have some, dude?
 
 
Gustavo Perez, 10, was impressed.
 

“It tastes like a better vegetable,” he said.
 

Jordin Mendez, 11, was amazed at how many hues of green were in the lettuce, along with an occasional dash of red leaf.
 

But that’s not all.
 

“It’s nutritious and also a good vegetable,” he said. “I love it.”
 

At Columbus, it was a day of two other firsts at the cafeteria: The students served themselves and the mayonnaise-based salads were replaced by fresh vegetables.
 
The latter was ordered by Cipriano, who said, “It’s great to have a variety, but not the artery-clogging stuff.”