Abbey Willard, MSES '09
This year, students at Randolph Elementary School will chat with local farmers who visit their classrooms. At lunch, they’ll eat produce grown down the road and learn about their regional watershed. It’s all thanks to work by Abbey Willard, a member of the first graduating class for GMC’s MSES program. For her thesis she focused on the food to school movement – a project that both helped to launch the program in her hometown of Randolph and create a checklist for other institutions.
“The local food in schools movement is such a logical union of health, agriculture and education,” she said. “The question was – why wasn’t every school doing it?”
The checklist – to be incorporated into a resource guide for Vermont schools – should give educators a starting point. To compile the list she interviewed officials at eight schools with long-standing food to school programs. Many interviewees pointed to certain key components for success: A committee to involve different stakeholders, a framework for community interaction and a process to set realistic goals achievable over time.
“Many Vermont kids have never been on a farm,” Abbey said. “We want to create a connection to the local community and the landscape.”
As a self-described ‘hobby farmer,’ Abbey knows the health benefits of local food, and the importance of farming to the culture of Vermont. And through her job as district manager for the Winooski and White River Conservation Districts, Abbey has the opportunity to continue the work she began in the MSES program.
“The food to school movement really fits our mission well,” she said. “My master’s work will be incorporated into what I do professionally.”