THE elementary students, with all their fidgetiness, march by one class at a time through the outstretched arms of the visiting high school students and toward the large cooking pot that boils over the giant fire.

It’s VEGI Stone Soup day for kindergartners through second graders at Alamosa Elementary, and the excitement of the morning and anticipation of tasting the soup later in the afternoon is everywhere.

“We’ve been harvesting veggies from our garden here at Alamosa Elementary and we’ve been throwing them into the pot over this giant fire with a little magic and, of course, the magic stone,” says Christina Riccardo (above), interim director of the Valley Educational Gardens Initiative (VEGI).

THIS is an annual event put on by VEGI and its parent organization, La Puente. The COVID period, of course, halted the event last year and so this year’s Stone Soup is also another way to celebrate being back to “normal.”

The week before the elementary students went into the garden they keep at the school and harvested the vegetables that would go into the Stone Soup. On the day of soup-making they walk around the boiling pot and cheer for what is cooking inside. 

“Stone Soup, Stone Soup, Stone Soup,” they chant aloud.

A group of special guests is celebrating with the students and the VEGI team this year. This year’s Stone Soup event coincides with Mullen High School’s annual trip to the San Luis Valley and in partnership with La Puente to perform community service work. 

“They’re learning about food deserts and what it means to be hungry and how many people are affected by this,” Shanae Diaz, volunteer coordination director at La Puente, says of the Mullen High students and their weeklong volunteerism in the Valley.

Mary Jo Baldwin, the Mullen High chaperone on the trip, says there are nine students who made the trip. The school is known for its commitment to service learning and sends students on a variety of immersion experience trips, and the annual trek to the San Luis Valley to work with La Puente and other nonprofits is the only one Mullen High takes in Colorado.

The elementary school students enjoy the interaction with the Mullen High students, and when it comes time to try the soup, everyone gets a taste.

“Thumbs up,” if you like it? And all the thumbs go up.