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Jenny Kessler.

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BRATTLEBORO — Food Connects welcomes Jenny Kessler to its team as the newest Farm to School coach. Kessler will work with schools in the Windham Central Supervisory Union (WCUS) and Windham Northeast Supervisory Union (WNESU).

Kessler joined the Food Connects team in mid-October and comes with 13 years of education experience in NYC schools. Her experience integrating Farm to School (FTS) activities into her curriculum is expected to provide invaluable expertise for the teachers she works with.

“Farm to School can allow students the time and space to dive deeper into the complex questions of where food comes from, why we eat the things we do, and who benefits from these choices,” Kessler said in a statement. “But equally important, it allows students time to work with their hands, be outside, use real tools, be exposed to new foods, and have a voice in what they grow and how they feed themselves. I believe these to be essential learning experiences that sometimes get overlooked in the traditional American classroom.”

Food Connects says Kessler’s role as an educator has provided her with a solid perspective on how difficult it is to implement Farm to School activities while managing a classroom. “I’m also very familiar with how incredibly difficult it can be to integrate anything new or ‘extra’ into the teaching day. Teachers, administrators, and Food Service Professionals need support and encouragement, and time! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to figure out creative ways for them to practice FTS that make their lives feel easier, rather than more difficult.”

The Food Connects Farm to School program focuses on the three C’s of Farm to School — classrooms, cafeterias, and communities. From Farm to School coaching for educators and cafeterias support, to school gardens and classroom sprouting kits, Food Connects works to meet schools where they are at and provide support to burgeoning to flourishing Farm to School programs.

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“My hope is to support school staff, food service directors, and administrators in doing the work they’ve begun, to celebrate that work, and to make it easier for them to do more,” says Kessler. “I’d love to continue to build on the sharing and networking that Food Connects has already started — making it easier for our Garden Coordinators, administrators, and food service directors to connect with and learn from each other.”

The Farm to School team’s vision is to create lifelong healthy eating habits in students and engage them in learning about the natural world around them — including knowing where their food comes from.

“In my previous teaching career, I was able to see the direct impact of FTS activities,” says Kessler. “I’ve had high school students who had never tasted a raspberry, fourth grade students who were amazed the first time they tasted real maple syrup, and watched many of my students who were least engaged in the classroom become leaders and role models during FTS activities.”

And the Food Connects team is grateful to have Kessler’s experience to nurture the program’s growth. “Jenny’s 13 years as an educator and Farm to School champion in New York is an incredible asset to our program,” says Food Connects’ fellow Farm to School coach, Sheila Humphreys. “Jenny brings a depth of understanding and compassion to her work that can only be achieved through lived experience. We are so pleased to have Jenny on board as our newest coach, working to enrich Farm to School programming in WCSU and WNESU!”

Food Connects is an entrepreneurial nonprofit that delivers locally produced food as well as educational and consulting services aimed at transforming local food systems. The Food Hub aggregates and delivers from over 115 local farms and food producers to over 225 buyers in southeast Vermont, southwest New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts. The educational services focus on Farm to School programming.