May I Have Seconds Please?

Making fresh spring rolls at Chicago Park School.

“I wish I had 10,000 hands so I could raise them to tell you how much I love the squash,” stated Aubrey, a first grader at Union Hill Elementary School as she munched on her Squashamole dip that she prepared and shmeared onto the cracker all by herself. Four first grade classes of students smashed the locally grown butternut squash, tomatoes and carrots in a baggie, picked the fresh thyme leaves off the stem and added them to the mashed up aromatic mixture with a final squeeze of lemon to “bring out the flavors” – and walla, each student created their own delectable spread. 

Faces and fun designs were then created utilizing locally grown chopped up vegetables thanks to Susan Gilleran, a professional baker and contributor to Sunset Magazine, who shared her enthusiasm for teaching children about healthy eating as a volunteer chef for Tasting Week at two schools.  In its 6th year, Tasting Week is part of Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School Program.  This year, 22 volunteer chefs got busy creating tasty dishes utilizing all the bountiful and seasonal produce from local farmers in Nevada County inspiring creative cooking with almost 3,000 students from 24 schools from pre-K through high school seniors.

Victoria LaFont, volunteer chef at Seven Hills School preparing apple pizzas with healthy toppings.

Along with her mother, a Yuba River Charter School student was seen filling her shopping cart with ingredients for fresh spring rolls that she had learned about at school earlier that day! She even proudly posted pictures of the spring rolls she made for her family on social media. Kwong Chew, Sierra Harvest and BriarPatch board member and 3rd year volunteer Tasting Week chef, shared about the balance of tastes in food as students picked out their favorite produce to roll up a fresh spring roll and dip in several options of complementary sauces. Not only did he inspire elementary students to prepare fresh veggies, he helped high school seniors add a healthy dish to their repertoire when they head off to college. As one student from Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning stated, “I could definitely make these fresh spring rolls in my dorm room!” 

Tostadas with mashed sweet potatoes and black bean salsa, twice baked curried squash, quinoa salad, butternut squash pie, carrot slaw, purple potato latkes, pasta primavera and sweet potato gnocchi (pronounced knee-o-kee – who knew?) with maple cinnamon sage brown butter is just a sampling of the mouthwatering dishes the students tasted. Learning to cut with a knife safely, pouring salad dressing directly onto the bowl so that you don’t end up with soggy salad, and that roasting a vegetable brings out the flavor were just a few of the interesting tid bits the students learned while nibbling on delicious food that they made!

Jonah Arbaugh, 1st grader at Union Hill School enjoying his squashamole cracker.

Bill Jensen, former principal, volunteer garden educator and first year volunteer chef for Tasting Week shared, “It was truly my pleasure to be part of such a worthwhile activity.  I am sure that the students at Sierra Montessori School where they created a salad learning about eating the colors of the rainbow to garner a variety of nutrients every day will count this as a memorable experience.  Combined with all the other elements of the Farm to School Program, Sierra Harvest is really having an impact on the youth of Nevada County.  It was a pleasure to make a contribution to Sierra Harvest.”

Sierra Harvest is so grateful to the many volunteer chefs and local farmers that grew most of the food used in the cooking classes.  Your talents have inspired thousands of children and their families and we thank you for your time and energy. 

If you are interested in supporting future guest chef visits, please contact Aimee Retzler at