Lunchtime at the Chilmark School and the requests were piling up fast and furious.

“Could I have more kale, please?” “Can I have more wheat berry?” “My favorite was the beet chips!”

Beet chips?

It’s true and thanks to the Island Grown Schools’ Chilmark Community Lunch initiative, students could see beet chips replacing generic potato chips more often in the months ahead.

Once a month, Island chefs volunteer their time to prepare a meal at the Chilmark Community Center with a group of students from the Chilmark School. Previous chefs include former Zephrus chef Robert Lionette and Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch; on Dec. 10 Mr. Lionette was joined by Daniel Sauer of 7a Farm for the monthly lunch.

Suzanne More-Straton admires Morning Glory beets. — Greta Caruso

“Right now the lunch program does not work for the school,” said Noli Hoye, schools coordinator for Island Grown Initiative. “We’re learning a lot by doing this. It’s such a different experience than going into a cafeteria.”

The program is a pilot and IGI hopes to continue it throughout the school year. By serving community lunches in lieu of a traditional school lunch, the group hopes to learn more about the cost of a school lunch made with locally-sourced ingredients, in addition to the more obvious benefits of healthier, more delicious eating.

Led by Lindsey Scott, a group of parent volunteers spread floral tablecloths and set the tables with mismatched ceramic plates and Mason jars for glasses. Pine branch centerpieces graced the tables as the early afternoon light streamed in to the Community Center, the sun reflecting through the water jugs on a crisp winter day.

Keira McCarthy is busy sous chef. — Greta Caruso

Meanwhile, a group of seven students was busy rolling out dough for bread sticks, divvying up the beet chips with Mermaid Farm yogurt dip and slicing carrot sticks. Mr. Lionette, Mr. Sauer and the students gleaned 150 pounds of vegetables the weekend before at Morning Glory Farm; plenty was left over and will go toward the January lunch.

“I could do this all day,” Mr. Lionette said, brushing bread with olive oil, assisted by his son Jack. “It’s a blast. What’s so exciting is [the lunch program] is beginning to change. So many people, from the lunch ladies to IGI, there’s been a tremendous amount of progress. It’s exciting to be able to involve the children’s families. The level of participation is amazing.”

As Mr. Sauer carefully balanced the last bread stick on a plate, students marched over from the school next door and sat at their designated tables. Before anyone could dig in, the kindergarten and first grade class led the school community in saying grace.

“Let’s savor our days as we savor our meals,” they said collectively.

The beet chips, carrots and bread sticks were passed around, followed by the wheat berry salad with roasted winter vegetables and fresh ham from the Luce Pig Farm in West Tisbury. Dessert was apple bread pudding with apples from the Scott family’s orchard in Shoreham, Vt.; every spoonful went down with delight.

“What’s this?” asked one student with curiosity, holding up a slivered beet.

“I cut the carrots!” exclaimed another.

“Just because I like pigs doesn’t mean I won’t eat them,” said another.

Let us savor our days as we savor our meals: children, chefs, parents and community join in thanks. — Greta Caruso

“We hope we’re expanding their palates and have them consider trying new foods,” Mrs. Scott said. “We want to expose them to a variety of food grown on the Island and to have the kids start thinking about how it’s possible for them to grow their own food. But really it’s so nice to sit as a community and have a meal together,” she added.

Atlas Zack and Katie Goldsmith at table. — Greta Caruso

Mrs. Scott sent a letter home to parents asking for a small donation to help serve the 50 students and 10 teachers, wanting to keep it as inclusive as possible. As a result, the community lunch is offered free of charge to the students.

“Any kind of change in the way people can eat starts with the kids asking questions,” Mr. Sauer said.

When the crispy kale was served, one table played a game where they closed their eyes and listened to the crunch of the leafy green. Nowhere else would someone chewing in your ear be so appreciated.