By CLAIRE ST. JOHN
Most people don't think about fields of swaying wheat when they're eating bread, pizza or doughnuts.
In an effort to change that, the kids in the Jamestown Elementary After School program got down in the dirt to learn about where food comes from.
The process started in March when, with the help of Mary Innes, a youth assistant for the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension, students planted wheat seeds in the Jamestown community garden.
Last week, when the wheat was hip high and starting to turn brittle and brown, it was snipped at the base and passed around to students for examination.
Inspecting the heads and the stalks, students cautiously removed the wheat berries, chewed on them for awhile and came to the conclusion that they didn't taste like much.
While Innes set up her wheat grinder in the garden, Michelle Travers, of the AmeriCorps Healthy Start Family program, asked who remembered the story of the little red hen the one that grew the wheat, watered the wheat, harvested the wheat, ground the wheat and baked the bread with no help from anyone. Students raised their hands enthusiastically, joining in the rhythmic story.
But once the bread came out of the oven, Travers said, everyone wanted to help eat it.
Unlike the barnyard animals in the children's tale, Jamestown kids were interested and active in the process of turning wheat into dough.
Gathering around Innes, they watched as she crushed crunchy wheat berries into a pale brown flour by turning a hand-cranked grinder.
Two days later, kids were kneading the flour into dough for use as a pizza crust, which they layered with cheese, tomato sauce, turkey ham and pineapple, baked and ate for lunch. The three pizzas cost a total of $16 and were "really tasty," Travers said.
"It went really, really well," she said. "It shows kids how food is grown, and it gives them hands-on experience in baking. I think it's an excellent introduction to gardening, as well."