Healthful Harvest Students get their hands on food

Image kids learn key lessons at Heritage Farm

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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If you ask the second-graders at Image Elementary School where carrots come from, many are quick to answer.

"I think they come from just stores," 7-year-old Alexys Hoffmen said.

On Thursday, Alexys and her classmates learned firsthand where carrots come from. That is, before they get to the store.

In celebration of national Food Day, about 100 students from the Vancouver elementary school visited the Heritage Farm in Hazel Dell to pluck carrots from the ground and collect pumpkins from the pumpkin patch.

"It's called harvesting," 7-year-old Alex Dillon explained.

"They're cold when you do it," she said. "And your hands get really dirty."

Alex was surprised to learn carrots grow in the dirt. Her first reaction to the news?

"Nasty," she said.

Alexys also was surprised to discover the vegetables grow in the ground, but she enjoyed harvesting food for the first time.

"It was really fun," she said. "But it was fun getting dirty, too."

Seven-year-old Nathen Dahl already knew carrots grew in the dirt. He also knew how to harvest them, which he said was pretty easy.

"I like to get my hands dirty, and I liked to pull lots," he said. "I pulled like 1,000 carrots."

Second-grade teacher Heather Barnwell hopes the field trip will help the kids connect the food on their lunch trays to farms in Clark County and elsewhere.

This winter, Barnwell plans to take her class to the Clark County Food Bank -- where the harvested food will go -- for a tour. And in the spring, she wants the kids to return to the farm to plant food.

"I think it's exceptionally important on many levels," Barnwell said.

Not only will the field trips help the kids to understand our food system, but they will also help engage the children in the community and expose them to volunteering, she said.

In addition to harvesting crops, the second-graders played games to help them learn the different food groups -- fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy -- and the different stages of the food system, from seeds to the dinner table. They also planted herb seeds in small containers they took home.

The kids also learned about where all the food they harvested will go and who will benefit.

"They go to the food bank for

people who don't have food," Nathen explained.

The outing tied in perfectly with the goals of national Food Day, which was Thursday. Food Day is a celebration of healthful, affordable and sustainably produced foods and the policies that improve access to healthful foods and support local food systems, said Kachina Inman, a program coordinator for Clark County Public Health.

"To see kids connect to the food here at the farm, it really doesn't get better than that," Inman said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.