In her hometown of South Berwick, cookbook author Kathy Gunst is helping to spark a local food movement—starting with kindergarteners.

In 2010, Gunst was invited to the White House for the launch of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to help fight childhood obesity. A James Beard Award-winning food journalist, Gunst covered the launch as a writer. But, like other chefs and food journalists across the country, she felt called to act locally to make a difference nationally.

Left to right: Hannaford Vice President of Marketing Maile Buker, food journalist Kathy Gunst, Director of External Communications Mike Norton, and Central School Principal Nina D’Aran. Photo by Amy Paradysz

Gunst called Central School, where her now-grown daughters had been students, and volunteered to initiate a healthy eating program. By that fall, thanks to community donations and volunteers, the school had a hoop house and an orchard. Fast-forward eight years, and more than 1,000 current and former students have planted seeds, harvested vegetables and cooked with chefs, everything from salsa to pesto and tomato pizza.

“Hannaford Chef’s Table asked me where I would recommend donating to benefit childhood nutrition, and I thought of the program at Central School,” Gunst said. “Even in Maine, many small children have no idea where their food comes from—other than the grocery store. A big part of this program is to teach them how much fun it is to grow your own food, how easy it is and how much better it can taste when you eat local foods. Educating kids this young about the joys of eating fresh vegetables can change a lifetime of eating.”

First- and second-graders recently made a wish list of how they’d like to improve the hoop house, everything from “plant green beans” to “add heating and sun lamps for winter.”

“I believe your dreams can come true,” Gunst told the assembled students, “and I’m going to introduce you to someone who can help.”

Kindergartener Jolene Hines shows off the smoothie she made.(Photos by Amy Paradysz)

“We think it’s wonderful that you’re growing food in your very own outdoor classroom,” said Maile Buker, vice president of marketing for Hannaford, announcing a $10,000 gift. “What this means is that your teachers will be able to make your outdoor classroom even better.”

“This is just so exciting,” said Principal Nina D’Aran, talking about how the funds will be used to buy ingredients, expand the garden and bring in guest speakers on the importance of healthy eating.

These monthly profiles are brought to you by Hannaford Supermarkets, partners with local chefs since 1883. Hannaford works with more than 800 local farms and food producers.

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