Fifth Graders’ Field Trip Helps Those Struggling with Food Insecurity

Oak Knoll School fifth graders learned how to help those in need during a field trip to Longmeadow Farm in Blairstown, NJ recently – gleaning nearly 2,000 pounds of apples all to benefit America’s Grow-a-Row– a New Jersey-based nonprofit that relies on volunteers to plant, pick, rescue and deliver free fresh produce to local hunger-relief agencies. 

Students gleaned apples – the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields where it’s not economically profitable to harvest. The apples picked by Oak Knoll’s fifth graders will provide approximately 8,000 servings of food for neighbors struggling with food insecurity.

While at Longmeadow farm, students also discussed connections to the book they are currently reading in Language Arts called “Esperanza Rising,” which tells the story of a migrant fruit pickers.

“Providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those who do not have access can be life changing,” said Jess Huber, Program Assistant at America’s Grow-a-Row. “The students’ hard work will not only help to fill the bellies of so many but will also help to provide a healthier life for them. They are so thankful for your time spent with us.” 

The idea to weave together giving back to others, current school lessons and a fun, fall field trip was the brainchild of Regina Cherill, Oak Knoll’s STEM teacher in grades 4-6.

Cherill, who has volunteered with Grow-a-Row with her family over the years, remembered the non-profit near her in Hunterdon County while searching for a hands-on activity for her students to see the food web in action. 

“I wanted to weave in SHCJ Founder Cornelia Connelly’s belief of ‘Actions, not words’ into the STEMscopes fifth grade curriculum during a lesson on matter and energy transfer in an ecosystem,” said Cherill. When one of the corresponding activities suggested creating a model of a sustainable garden to help the community, Cherill remembered Grow-a-Row.

Cherill re-connected with the nonprofit and volunteered her class to rescue fallen apples from the ground for local area food banks in need. 

“The students were shocked to learn that food insecurity exists in every single community,” she said. Christina Castelblanco ’29 said she felt like a hero because she helped to feed so many people. Carolina Iommazzo ’29 said she felt awesome after the field trip concluded because people in need can have fresh fruit from the apples her class gleaned.

During their fall day at Longmeadow Farm, Cherill’s students also hunted for decomposers and worked at identifying mold and organisms that had begun decomposing the apples.

“At the same time while learning about sustainable agriculture, we did good for those in need,” said Cherill.