Michele is no ordinary school “lunch lady.” Every one of the meals she prepares as the Kitchen and Hot Lunch Coordinator for Good Shepherd Montessori School is farm fresh. Along with Farm Manager and Regenerative Farming Education Specialist Theri and the staff at Good Shepherd, they grow all the food they feed their students right on campus. And the students play a daily role in the farming and prep process — giving them a better understanding of where their food comes from and how it’s made.
Theri shares, “The whole idea is that not only is it abundant in the production of nutrition, but also healing the environment all at the same time.”
“What I have realized over the years is that our consumers need to be educated as well, and we can’t start too young on that, especially with environmental issues of the future. The kids here, when they come out of Good Shepherd, they’re so empowered to be part of the solution because they know so much.”
Michele Woody: Chickees! Girls, come in. Don’t let them out.
Hi. Yeah, just stick your fingers in and grab it out.
Chickens can remember up to 300 people.
Right now, I am using our farm fresh eggs, from our chickens here on campus, to make my world-famous potato salad. Oh, everybody loves this potato salad. Even people who don’t like potato salad tend to tell me that they love it.
[Talking to student] Okay, are you ready? Okay, first off, you need a spatula.
Student 1: Okay.
Michele: The kids do farm chores every day. They take care of the animals. They help plant.
Heather Tuttle: We had 400 pounds of produce from the Good Shepherd Farm.
Theri Niemier: So we try to grow things that we know our lunchroom can use, and Michele sometimes plans her menus around what’s available and then finds a way to preserve it — dehydrating or freezing typically.
We have brassicas, which are broccoli, cabbage, kales. Horseradish is a perennial. We have potatoes, which is a big favorite for kids to grow and to eat.
The idea is that we’re bringing these plants together in a way that they benefit each other. We call it companion planting. Because of their scientific relationships below and above the ground, they actually produce more because of their proximity to each other than in a monoculture type situation.
Michele: You know where your food comes from. Most kids I think think that meat comes wrapped in cellophane at the store, and they don’t understand.
One time we had a little boy who only liked gas station food, but I converted him and he started liking it — regular food. But yeah, so sometimes there’s hard sells.
Teacher: Ready for seconds?
Student 2: Yeah, I’m ready for seconds.
Teacher: Is this the best lunch ever?
Student 2: Yes. I liked everything!
Michele: Your body is a machine, and if you put junk into it, it’s going to run like junk. And so we strive to stay away from processed foods. There’s no processed foods. Everything is from scratch every day.
Theri: And the whole idea is that not only is it abundant in production of nutrition but also healing the environment all at the same time.
What I have realized over the years is that our consumers need to be educated as well, and we can’t start too young on that, especially with environmental issues of the future. The kids here, when they come out of Good Shepherd, they’re so empowered to be part of the solution because they know so much.
Michele: Every day they tell me it’s the best lunch ever. It can’t be the best lunch ever, but every day they like it. So it makes me happy. It warms my heart.
Producer Kevin: You guys like your lunch?
Student 3: Yes, definitely. It’s the best lunch I’ve ever had. No, sloppy joes was way better. But this is still good.