Groton on the Inside: Park Foundation opens doors to health and wellness in Groton


By Linda Competillo


It all started with a phone call. Not long after the beginning of the school year in fall of 2017, Groton Central School’s District Office received a call from Lisa Horn of Horn Research LLC in Slaterville Springs inquiring whether the school would be willing to participate in her research on child nutrition in schools. Horn’s message was conveyed to GCS’ food service director, Kelley Neville, who then gladly responded and arranged a meeting with Horn, GCS superintendent Margo Martin, and herself.

During that meeting, Horn wanted to know what sort of changes Neville, who accepted the director position in December 2015, has been making to improve nutrition in the school and what challenges she has faced in doing so since she started.

Neville stated the challenges as staffing, budget restraints, increased regulations from New York State on portion sizes and other areas, and then shared some of the ways she has tried to encourage students to eat more healthily such as adding wraps and specialty sandwiches to the menu as she was able.

Several months later, in February of 2018, Neville received another phone call – this time from Sue Kittel of the Park Foundation, who had reviewed Horn’s research and wanted to meet with Neville. Kittel was impressed by Horn’s findings and wanted to partner with Groton School and the Groton community to help promote well-being for children and families through healthy eating and physical activity in a district-wide culture of wellness.

After that, a few more months passed, and on June 6, GCS was notified that it was the recipient of a very generous multi-year “Groton HARVEST” grant through the Park Foundation that will be focusing on healthy eating both in and outside of school for the entire Groton community! Superintendent Martin said, “It is a very exciting endeavor that includes several community partnerships, including the Groton library, Groton Recreation, and others.”

By the end of June, the Groton HARVEST steering committee was established, including Neville, Martin, the director of the Groton Public Library Sara Knobel, Monica Dykeman from Groton Recreation, representatives from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and key leaders from the Park Foundation, which developed a plan of action for building a community-driven, sustainable nutrition project that improves access throughout Groton to nutritious meals, educational programs, and wellness activities now and for future families.

Neville is particularly excited that the entire staff of food service employees will participate in professional development on basic skills required for preparation and cooking of nutritious meals using fresh produce wherever possible through their attendance at the Coltivare-sponsored Food Service Boot Camp Aug. 20-21.

When school begins this fall, the school menu shall include more choices of fresh fruits and vegetables each day by including a salad bar option for grades 6 through 12 and a freshly made salad option at the elementary school, smoothies for breakfast for both schools, and a healthy snack at each building that is student-inspired in content. They hope to enhance family knowledge of healthy eating choices by sending home weekly recipes on how to prepare the healthy snack of the week at home, offering food nutrition information at school-wide events, and improve student understanding of the nutritional value in food by integrating food nutrition and wellness within the core curriculum as appropriate. They will also be offering a weekly fruit or vegetable for all students to try at the “Chef’s Corner” display in both buildings, as a means of exposing students to produce they may not have tried before.

Throughout this summer, Neville has been working with Groton Youth Services to have students in the cafeteria planning and taste-testing new food items and recipes for the fall school breakfast and lunch menus, and hands-on education on harvesting, preparing and freezing fruits and vegetables.

Neville also plans to serve and showcase the new food items that will be served in the cafeterias for the Groton Board of Education at its summer retreat this month.

To see and experience a sample of what is coming in September, be sure to visit the Groton HARVEST tent at Groton Olde Home Days on Saturday, Aug. 25, located in the Bun Appetit parking lot.


Free food for children
There is a free children’s farmer’s market going on at Groton Memorial Park from 12 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday through the end of August, sponsored by Groton Recreation. Any child may come to the park, choose from a variety of fresh produce, and take a bag home for free.

Ice cream at the library
All are welcome to attend the Groton Public Library’s annual Ice Cream Social Thursday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. Singer/songwriter Josh Dwyer will be in the house performing for your listening pleasure, and the library trustees will be scooping the ice cream. For more information, contact the library at 607-898-5055 or


Groton Olde Home Days
It is almost time for the festival that Groton has been proudly celebrating for over 100 years, attracting thousands of people: Groton Olde Home Days. The celebration will span over three days, Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 23 through 25.

Come back to this column next week for even more details, but this week I want to highlight the free ride ticket giveaway. Find Groton Olde Home Days on Facebook and enter to win two free tickets.


A word of welcome
I would like to allow a sentence or two to welcome readers to this column for its debut. I am proud to be a Grotonian and very excited for the opportunity to bring the best of Groton and McLean to you on a weekly basis. Please feel free to reach out with any news ideas or announcements you may have for consideration. For time-sensitive items, please send them no later than 12 noon on the Monday prior to the following week’s Monday edition. Blessings, Linda.

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit items to Linda Competillo, 607-227-4922 or


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