A Food Affair to Remember

A Food Affair to Remember

FROM: Caelan Keenan, Lily Evans, + Holidae Filkins | Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Richmond, VT

TIME: 1 growing season; 1 full day of cooking

CATEGORIES: Community, Cafeteria, Farms + Gardens, Projects + Activities, Events, Food Access, Partnerships, Youth Leadership

Youth prepare and share a meal with their community using produce, poultry, and eggs they grow on the farm. Working together in the field, kitchen, and community center, youth experience the life cycle of their food and serve their community through free multiple-course meals.


  • Community center
  • 8-10 youth/students
  • 3 passionate leaders/educators
  • 1 farm, with seeds or seedlings, fertilizer, tools and all supplies for growing produce and livestock
  • Local produce and ingredients
  • Kitchen and cooking utensils
  • Recipe books
  • Community members


STEP 1. PLAN & PUBLICIZE. Identify a date and location and then spread the word! You will need a sense of numbers. If your community frequently hosts dinners, you may know average attendance. If not, you may want to ask for RSVPs or cap the attendance. Decide whether your dinner will be free or whether you will accept donations or a small fee. Make posters or publicize your event and details through bulletin boards, social media, newspaper, or other channels.

STEP 2. CREATE A MENU. Determine what produce you have available from a school or center garden. If students do not have access to a garden or farm, contact local farms about produce availability. Allow students to create the menu – they grew the food all season and know it best! Help them choose seasonal recipes that can be made in large quantities. Confirm your budget if you need to purchase ingredients.

STEP 3. GET COOKING. Once the menu is created, students harvest produce and purchase or procure other ingredients. Break students and leaders up into groups with assigned recipes. Each group will be responsible for one or two recipes, depending on the chosen menu. To ensure success, create kitchen stations and a timeline for students to follow. Cooking will likely take at least six hours, depending on students’ skills and dishes chosen. Prep veggies and ingredients the day before, if necessary.

STEP 4. SET UP. Once all dishes are made and kitchen cleaned, head to the site to prepare the “dining room.” Be sure to leave at least 1 hour to set up (more if you need to move tables and chairs). Showcase who you are! Bring pictures, flowers and decorations to brighten up the room.

STEP 5. WELCOME, SERVE, AND ENJOY! This is a special occasion for your guests! Make it is much like a restaurant setting as possible. Before guests arrive, have students volunteer for the roles of waiter, greeter, server, etc. Serve your community and have fun! Be sure to tell everyone why you have prepared this meal and where the food came from.

STEP 6. EAT AND DEBRIEF. Once guests have left and before clean up begins, sit down with students to share the meal and discuss the event. Make note of how many people attended, how much food was left, and what worked or did not work for the next time.


  • Students learn how to work together in the kitchen, the garden, and as active citizens in their community
  • Students develop personal identity and pride by sharing food from their culture
  • Community members and students expand their palates by trying new foods
  • Students gain a deeper knowledge of eating healthfully and seasonally
  • Students develop confidence in the kitchen and learn to cook healthy foods
  • The community comes together to share a free, nutritious meal


The word community has many meanings; this model can be used to serve groups of town residents, the school community, or others. It works to feed groups exceeding 100 people, as well as small groups of just students. This can also be a great opportunity to share and explore how different cultures cook and eat together.


About Farm to School Recipes for Success

From garden parties to cooking contests, farm visits to STEM lessons, farm to school programs all over the Northeast are sizzling! The Farm to School Recipes for Success contest features the top ten best projects, activities, lessons and ideas chosen from dozens of “recipes” submitted by schools and programs in advance of the 2015 Farm to Institution Summit on April 7-9. This contest is sponsored by the Northeast Regional Steering Committee of the National Farm to School Network and is funded by a USDA Farm to School grant with support from the National Education Association. Visit www.farmtoinstitution.org/f2s-recipes to learn more.