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‘Farmer Marcinelli Day’ Brings Student-Grown Vegetables, Fruits to Como Park Elementary Cafeteria

Students point at Farmer Marcinelli during Farmer Marcinelli Day at Como Park Elementary Farmer Marcinelli offers a student fresh vegetables during Farmer Marcinelli Day.

For students at Como Park Elementary School, the arrival of the annual Farmer Marcinelli Day was a chance to enjoy the fruits, as well as the vegetables, of their hard work. The day allowed students the chance to eat tomatoes, beets, swiss chard, peppers, carrots and other items grown by students and families in the garden behind the school starting this spring, and harvested as recently as this week.

Encouraging them through the day was Farmer Marcinelli, introduced to students as the cousin of principal Molly Marcinell, who was visiting them from the country. Marcinelli, wearing a set of dark overalls and a straw hat, commended the students on their hard work during classroom visits and told them the fruits and vegetables would make them big and strong.

“I want each student to get their hands dirty and experience this,” Mrs. Marcinelli said. “This is something for the whole school community.”

The event, held this year on September 14, has been in place at the school for more than a dozen years. Mrs. Marcinelli said the cafeteria celebration was a way to encourage healthy eating habits. Beyond the cafeteria, the work in the garden is something that incorporates different subjects across the grade levels in the school, from the life cycles of insects to measuring the growth of plants in the garden. “It’s all interconnected,” Mrs. Marcinelli said. 

Following the spring planting, students and their families volunteered throughout the summer to ensure the garden’s success. Jacquelyn Galas, a second grade teacher who manages the Como Park Garden, said the school-wide collaboration was “kind of magical.” “It’s amazing how it all comes together,” she said.

Multiple parents and former staff members also came to the school to help prepare the vegetables and serve them to students. Students could be seen choosing between items like sweet and sour beets and fresh tomato salsa. “The kids are drawn to colors, and fresh food has so much color,” said Rebecca Pavlick, a parent volunteer whose children have also been members of the school’s Garden Club.

Though students showed excitement about the day and trying fresh produce, many of the older students insisted that Farmer Marcinelli was, in fact, their principal. “Sometimes that happens in families, you can look alike, but you're different people,” Farmer Marcinelli told one class who raised questions about the visual similarity. “She told me about you guys, and she said you're a good class.”

Despite Farmer Marcinelli Day being in the books for the year, additional vegetables from the garden will continue to be offered in upcoming lunches at the school. Mrs. Marcinelli said the additional placements created a chance to continue developing food preferences on their own.“You watch what they take without being offered and it’s amazing,” she said. 

mber Fox and Margaret Baumgart show off vegetables prepared for Farmer Marcinelli Day at Como Park Elementary.  A Como Park Elementary School student looks at cups filled with either fresh tomato salsa and sweet and sour beets.