ACORN encourages student food projects

ADDISON COUNTY — Feeding students local food is all well and good, but how can they be encouraged to participate in food and agriculture efforts outside of the cafeteria?
For the Addison County Relocalization Network, the answer is the new Farm to School Entrepreneur Awards, which this year will honor students working on food-related projects. ACORN AmeriCorps staffer Hannah Mueller, who is coordinating the awards, hopes to see projects boosting everything from agriculture and farming to nutrition and food awareness efforts within schools.
The top student projects, said Mueller, will be featured at the 2012 Stone Soup Summit on April 3. The third annual summit, which will be held at Vergennes Union High School, will bring together educators, members of foodservice programs, school administrators, parents and students to discuss farm-to-school, a movement that is bringing local foods and agriculture into schools in Addison County and across the nation.
Mueller said that while the summit in past years has focused on the administrative side of farm-to-school, ACORN is hoping to bring the focus toward students and their parents this year.
“We (wanted) to get more students to participate in the Stone Soup Summit, since it’s really about the students,” she said.
For the first time, the conference will be co-sponsored by the Commodore Parent/Teacher Group at VUHS, which Mueller said will get parents involved in the summit. And the student farm-to-school awards will be featured there as well, which she said will draw students to the event.
Mueller is working with teachers in county schools to spread the word to students in seventh through 12th grades. She said there are a number of teachers throughout the district who focus on food and agriculture, and she’s hoping they will be able to fit these awards into their curriculum.
“We’re hoping that teachers will really help us push it,” she said.
Students have until March 20 to apply with a food-related project that was either completed in 2011 or that is still in progress. The awards will be broken down in two different categories: business entrepreneur and social entrepreneur. Each carries cash prizes for first and second place, and projects that receive first or second place or an honorable mention nod will be featured at Stone Soup.
According to ACORN award materials, examples of a business entrepreneur project are a sugaring business or a farmer’s market stand; a social entrepreneur project could be a local foods poster campaign, writing about local foods or a composting project at school. But, said Mueller, students shouldn’t feel restrained by those examples.
“We want it to be really broad,” she said. “As long as it has to do with food in Addison County, students should apply.”
Students can find application materials at acornvt.org.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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