Did you know that in 2010 a study from UCLA states that Santa Paula had the second highest obesity rate among children in Ventura County with 47.9%? SESPEA has partnered with Santa Paula Unified School District's Child Nutrition Services and the Abundant Table's Director of Farm Education, Erynn Smith, to combat child obesity by implementing Harvest of the Month. Harvest of the Month strives to improve the health of students by introducing a seasonal local fruit or vegetable each month along with a delicious recipe. Students lead the way by personally choosing the recipes that are featured in the salad bar and creating the educational materials that expands their knowledge on seasonal produce. This year, students work with the high school's cafeteria staff to recreate recipes from the Ventura County Farm to School Collaborative's Harvest of the Month and recipes from a professional chef (Chef Roberto Garcia).

Erynn Smith, Director of Farm Education / SESPEA's Harvest of the Month Coordinator

Erynn is a Ventura county native who grew up eating Oxnard’s strawberries and lima beans. Erynn has been in the youth development and agricultural fields for nearly 10 years. Previously she taught for two years in a bilingual elementary school in Cuenca, Ecuador through the Centro de Estudios Inter-Americanos where she grew her passion for bilingual education, local produce, and native medicinal plant remedies.

Prior to teaching abroad she was a counselor at the Boys and Girls Club of Camarillo, working directly with youth. Erynn joined The Abundant Table in 2009 as a farm intern and for the past six years has grown the farm education program and the farm’s experiential learning opportunities. As Director of Farm Education, Erynn provides agricultural and nutrition education to youth in the classroom and on the farm to promote the good work of growing healthy food, healthy farm systems, and healthy community. She also is a consultant Nutrition Specialist for the El Rio and Hueneme School Districts in Oxnard, is a member of the Ventura County Farm to School Collaborative and the Ventura chapter of the Ag Futures Alliance. To enhance her farm education curriculum, she studies local, native plants and their medicinal and ecologically beneficial properties and in 2014 completed a farm education training and farm stay at Shelbourne Farms, Vermont – the nation’s leading educational farm for sustainable agriculture and conservation. She earned her bachelors of art in journalism from the University of Southern California and holds a Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development (B.C.L.A.D) teaching credential for Spanish from the California State University Channel Islands.

Chef Roberto Garcia, SESPEA's Harvest of the Month Chef

Chef Roberto Garcia has been a part of crafting high quality, classical and traditional dishes for the past 20 years. He has extensive cooking experience in traditional Meso-American food ways. He is the head chef at Pacific High School's Iron Chef program where he teaches culinary techniques and develops recipes with students. He also teaches charcuterie making at Casitas Valley Farm. Chef Roberto co-founded "Food for Celebration," a community-based and equitable food service collaborative. Through education/awareness, food service, collaborative partnerships, and the development of community kitchen spaces, he has fostered communities that value ecological, economic and socially resilient food practices.