When the bell rings at 11:30 in the morning, they come through the doors to the cafeteria, and they are hungry. The want two things: their chow, and their seats among their buddies.
Thatʼs the ritual at both Rappahannock public schools, the high school and the elementary. The bell starts a two-hour lunch session, as one group eats and leaves and another files in.
If you went to school in Rappahannock several years ago, you would certainly notice a big difference in the offerings. No more soda pop, as you knew it. Not so much food we have come to think of as junk. At some tables, the majority of the young people open backpacks and serve themselves what they brought from home.
But those who choose to eat what the cafeteria offers had a special menu this past week: Nov. 10 through 14 was Local Food Week. There was beef from the Adams family in Amissville; carrots from Sunnyside; lettuce both from Sunnyside and from the schoolʼs own garden, the Farm-to-Table program; and the eye-catching basket of apples from the Thornton River Orchard, individually wrapped in clear plastic. Sausage links came from Papa Weaverʼs in Orange.
The fragrance of the beef, cooked and presented in a taco, filled the air and wafted into the corridor. The apples were delicious. And the carrots? They are so sweet in the raw as to make cooking them nearly a criminal offense.
Leafy greens met a mixed reception. The Farm-to-Table program coordinator, Sarah Moore, reports that kale and lettuce were left on the plate when there was no dressing. However, she says, when a dressing was applied, “they ate it!”
The overall results of the week of emphasis on local products were, according to Ms. Moore, very positive. Cafeteria manager Karen McCracken said the reaction to the beef was “fantastic.”
There are a few things to wonder about. The youngsters drink water, of course. Or they can pick up one of the cans of juice that sit in a barrel of ice chips. It is a short, narrow can, and the product is called Switch, identified as an orange-tangerine combination. It looks good, but the label announces that it contains 29 grams of sugar. That may seem high, but “it is approved by the USDA,” says Superintendent Donna Matthews.
For her part, by the way, Dr. Matthews was delighted with the local foods week. Another wonderment: Of the some 400 youngsters in the high school, only about 150 buy the cafeteria lunch. At $2.30 for the meal, it has to be the best food bargain anywhere. Looks good, tastes good. There are places in the county where $2.30 would not buy you a chance to look in the front window!
￼Please donʼt tell anybody about this amazing value. We would be swamped with foodies from around the world.
Yes, the folks at the schools have come a long way from the soda pop and assorted junk that has been thrown at American kids for decades. Next thing you know, the cafeteria people will cook and serve Brussels sprouts — and wonʼt we all just love those!