Local kids think potatoes are tubular


ALAMOSA — A day after Monte Vista School District enjoyed quinoa, Sanford School was served a special treat on Thursday as their food service staff and members of the Farm to School Task Force doled out roasted local fingerling potatoes while dressed in vegetable costumes. The initiative helps underfunded cafeterias promote and serve healthy, local foods.

The task force is a partnership between the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, La Puente’s Valley Educational Gardens Initiative, Integrated Nutrition Education Program, and Cooking Matters. In July of 2017 the partnership received a USDA grant to support Farm to School efforts in all 14 school districts of the Valley. So far the group has served locally sourced meals to eight of them.

“Everyone in the San Luis Valley should eat potatoes,” said Liza Marron of the SLV Local Foods Coalition. “We’re in a potato-growing region.”

These particular fingerling potatoes were grown at Center’s Rockey Farms and roasted by Sanford School Food Service Director Antoinette Ortiz with garlic, salt, pepper and parsley. They were given to students as a side to accompany chicken sandwiches, strawberries and milk.

“Rockey Farms really pioneered the fingerling potatoes and turned it into a delicacy,” Marron said.

As the students ate Sanford farmer and gardener Paul Niebel quizzed them on the biology and history of the potato. Niebel told them how potatoes were originally grown by the Incas in Peru and equaled the size of today’s fingerlings.

When they finished their meals the students voted on how much they enjoyed the potatoes by placing a marble in a cup labeled “I loved it,” “I liked it,” or “I don’t know, but I’ll try it again.” Of the students that participated, 183 kids loved the roasted fingerlings, 16 liked them, and three were not sure about them.

“It was the best potato I’ve ever tasted,” said second grader Hesston. “They’re awesome,” added his fellow classmate Huntley.

Though an “I don’t like it” option wasn’t necessary as kids held out empty bowls for more, it also wasn’t included because the task force wants to encourage kids to repeatedly try foods as their palettes develop and tastes shift.

The next Farm to School event is schedule for May 10 as Food Service Director Joni Bilderbeck will serve organic carrots to Alamosa School District students.

Captions: Sanford School food service staff Lindsey Sisneros, Leann Arellano, Deanna Scott, Antoinette Ortiz, Brian Fernelius are ready to feed kids dressed in the Farm to School task force’s trademarked vegetable costumes on Thursday./Courier photos by Jefferson Geiger

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Sanford School Food Service Director Antoinette Ortiz prepares the roasted fingerling potatoes for the students. They were cooked with garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.

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Paul Niebel tells a group of kids, including second graders Hailey and Maggie, about the history and biology of a potato.

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Second graders Misty and Julia chow down on roasted fingerling potatoes that came from Rockey Farms in Center for lunch on Thursday. 183 kids said that they loved the meal.

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Sanford School food service employee Deanna Scott tells students in the lunch line that their fingerling potatoes were grown at Rockey Farms in Center. The special meal was made possible in part due to the USDA-funded Farm to School Task Force.

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Second graders Huntley, Hesston and Jayden snack on fingerling potatoes for lunch at Sanford School Thursday. "It was the best potato I've ever had," said Hesston. "They're awesome," said Huntley.

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