Vineyard high school students and Island Grown Schools celebrate Farm to School Day at the State House

From left, Louis Hall, Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School Teacher; Jonah Maidoff Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School Teacher; Robin Organ, Chairman, Secretary’s Advisory Group on Energy and Environmental Education; Timothy Madden, State Representative;  Matthew Beaton, Secretary, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs; Judith Johnson, DOER Commissioner; Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School Students. – Photo courtesy Noli Taylor

Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm to school program, helped lead a group of Island high school students to the first Farm to School Day at the State House on May 6, an event organized by IGS in collaboration with State Representative Tim Madden, the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, and other farm to school organizations from across the state.

“Farm to School Day brought together teachers, students, cafeteria directors, school nurses, and other farm to school advocates to meet with our elected officials and tell them why food education, school gardens, and healthy food in school meals are important in the districts they represent,” said Noli Taylor, IGS program leader, in a press release.

Students from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, led by Charter School teachers Louis Hall and Jonah Maidoff and MVRHS teacher Anna Cotton, traveled to the State House for a full day of political engagement, which included sitting in on a legislative briefing where Astrid Tilton, a junior at the Charter School, was the student speaker.

“We didn’t come here because we were inspired by the adults who ordered us to eat our vegetables,” Ms. Tilton said. “We’re here because we realize the value of all that we learn about farming, and because we think every student should have access to that knowledge. Our education would be incomplete if we didn’t have at least a basic understanding of something as essential to our lives as the food we eat.”

Last fall, Charter School students worked with Representative Madden and Ms. Taylor to write a bill, H. 2782, which would encourage three state agencies (the Department of Public Health, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Department of Agricultural Resources) to form a joint task force to strategize ways to spread farm to school across the state, and to declare October Massachusetts Farm to School Month.

Ms. Tilton and Charter School senior Bella Maidoff also joined Ms. Taylor and Island local food advocate and author Ali Berlow in a meeting with State Representative Jennifer Benson, who has also filed legislation to support farm to school programs this session. “It was inspiring and empowering meeting with my elected officials,” said Ms. Maidoff. “And they were interested in my input! It was incredible to feel like part of government, making an important change.”

For more on the legislation and on Farm to School Day, please visit islandgrownschools.org.