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Garden grows on Bethlehem Central Middle School students

The Bethlehem Middle School has taken eating local to the next step by starting a garden club that allows students to eat produce grown in the school's own backyard.

The school garden was designed as a kitchen garden, Mark Warford, assistant principal at the middle school said.

The Bethlehem Healthy Kids Committee, in partnership with the Bethlehem Central School District, is spearheading the district's first year of participating in the state-wide Farm-to-School celebration called "Farm to You Fest."

The week is designated for Monday, Oct. 5, through Saturday, Oct. 10.

It's a week-long series of classroom and community activities that gets kids thinking about the connection between the food on their plates, local farms and good nutrition, according to the Bethlehem Central School District.

Warford said getting kids to eat right and be aware of local agriculture is a great idea, and supports the Farm to You Fest.

"Anytime that you can raise awareness about supporting local agriculture its a good thing," Warford said.

The club has been harvesting its work from the summer, and has been using the vegetables from the garden in the school's cafeteria.

Robin Van Ness, the head chef in the middle school's cafeteria said cooking with the vegetables has gotten the kids interested in healthy food and also makes for a much more flavorful meal. Van Ness said she indicates on the menu which items are fresh from the garden, to make the kids aware of what they are eating.

"The green beans in the spaghetti sauce was their favorite, she said. "They also like the green leaf lettuce."

She said she can try different things using the fresh produce, and since it doesn't cost anything for the district, can make the food available for seconds.

"The kids are really interested in it," said Van Ness. "I'm looking forward to more next year."

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