(submitted photo)
(submitted photo)
Monday June 17, 2013

WESTMINSTER -- Sophie Guerrina does not snowboard. But her father and younger sister do, and she's looking forward to learning.

She will have the perfect opportunity this winter, having been awarded a new board for being the southern Vermont winner of an essay contest sponsored by Hunger Free Vermont.

The organization, dedicated to providing local communities with tools and education to create sustainable food programs and end hunger and malnutrition in the state, sponsors the contest to promote the school food programs in Vermont. There were also winners from the central and northern regions of the state.

"(The essay is) about a school lunch experience," Sophie, who will enter the eighth grade in the fall, told the Reformer. "What I thought of was one time when the food was really good and we were eating outside and it was a good experience."

Anore Horton, a child nutrition advocacy manager at Hunger Free Vermont, said Sophie's one-page essay, "The Spice of Life," stood out from the rest because it focuses on what opportunities school lunches provide for students -- instead of just the food itself.

Sophie's essay, written in the present tense, mentions getting out of a class at 12:15 p.m. one day and filing into the school's lunch room. She recalls how the sound of laughter rose through the room "like a wave in the ocean, tumbling down and taking everyone with it" before she got in the lunch line, where she was met with the taunting aroma of ravioli and freshly baked bread. Sophie writes that a slight breeze drew her and her friends into the autumn air.

"Leaving the chatter of the lunch room, we head outside, and up a hill. Sitting at the top we can finally dig in to the lunch we have been waiting so patiently for all morning. A soft, cheesy filling encased in a box made of pasta fills my mouth and warms my body," the Westminster native recalls. "Screams of laughter drift out from the building and a group of kids are running around, but we pay no attention, for we are captivated in our own conversation. I take the last bite of ravioli and wash it down with some ice cold water. My meal is done, but lunch is most definitely not over yet. We now need to get our dishes to the kitchen."

In her essay, Sophie goes on to describe the dessert -- black tea with cream and sugar. The beverage warmed her "from head to toe" but didn't stop her from engaging in a deep discussion awaiting the start of her my next class. She said lunch that day was a one-of-a-kind moment filled with laughter, chatter and a delicious plate of food.

"Lunch should be the time that you can change every day, making it different and unique from the day before," she writes. "It is the time when your schedule is thrown out the window and you just make it up as you go along, adding a different spice each day."

Sophie told the Reformer she really likes writing and wanted to give the essay contest a try. She said she enjoyed the contest and it was the first award she has ever won for her writing. She also won tickets to a museum.

Her father, Rob Guerrina, said his daughter is a talented writer but he didn't actually read the essay until after she had won. The family found out more than a month ago.

"We were very proud of her and very excited for her," he said. "Sophie's writing is something she gravitates to well and has for a while now."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.