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Schoolchildren commemorate first Thanksgiving with Ag Commissioner

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Spanish explorers gave thanks at St. Augustine in 1565 — 50 years before Pilgrims

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam shared Spanish stew, roasted squash and fresh oranges with children at Sylvia Rodriguez Kimbell Elementary School in Tampa on Friday, Sept. 6, to commemorate Florida’s – and the country's – first Thanksgiving.

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“Giving thanks for the great bounty of fresh foods we have here in Florida should be part of every day, but it is wonderful to be able to celebrate our First Thanksgiving with schoolchildren,” said Putnam. “We want to offer our state’s children the opportunity to eat wholesome, local foods every day so that they can grow up healthy and strong.”

Spanish explorers and Native Americans held the first true Thanksgiving in St. Augustine on Sept. 8, 1565, more than 50 years before the Pilgrims’ famous meal at Plymouth.  Schools across Florida were invited to celebrate the anniversary of the First Thanksgiving today by hosting their own Thanksgiving meals during lunch. The menu included items similar to what would have been eaten at the time, like cocido, a traditional Spanish stew, roasted acorn squash, orange slices, whole grain biscuits and milk.

The meal, part of the statewide Viva Florida 500 commemoration, paid homage to the foods first cultivated by American Indians in the region and those brought over by Spanish explorers to Florida. The yearlong Viva Florida 500 is celebrating 500 years since Juan Ponce de Leon stepped foot in St. Augustine, becoming the first European settler in the state. He also introduced the first citrus trees to the state.

In addition to the First Thanksgiving meal, students and teachers at the school viewed a life-sized copy of “Florida’s Farm History,” the 2013 Florida Agriculture Literacy Day Book created by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc.