From Chestnuts to Charity

By: Virginia Elementary Students

Driving Question

How might we share our bounty to serve others?

Project Description

Community members need a way to enjoy local, seasonal food because it is healthy, sustainable, and fun.

Background: Expecting only to collect a few, in less than an hour, we collected 1193 chestnuts! The weight broke one of our bags! We couldn’t possibly eat all of them ourselves, so we thought, “Let’s sell them and raise money for a local food bank! But how do we sort all of these chestnuts? How do we know which ones are good to sell and eat? How much should we charge? How much should we donate? Who will buy them? Where do we sell them? How do we market them?” These are only a few of the questions to be answered.

We found out the cost (market and retail value) of a pound of chestnuts online. We designed a sign which became a logo and label for the bags. We discarded the small chestnuts and ones with holes (from weevils), and sorted them into ~1lb groups. We bagged a few and decided to continue the project in the morning.

The next morning, we found weevils in some of our first round of bags! We needed to do more research on how to process and safely  handle these chestnuts before selling them. What we found:

  1. Quality chestnuts sink in water; we discarded all floaters.
  2. Most American chestnuts have weevil eggs that are harmless to eat; we sterilized the chestnuts in a 140°F water bath for 30 minutes, so the eggs wouldn’t hatch after being sold.
  3. Keep fresh chestnuts in refrigerator (preferably in the “crisper” drawer) for up to 3 weeks.
  4. Keep roasted or boiled chestnuts in the fridge for 3 days.

Now we could repackage and sell our product with confidence.  

We set up on a Friday after school at the Old Farm Truck. Bring on the customers!

No one came! We waited and waited. A few customers trickled through the store. We sold only 4 bags in over an hour. What we learned from the store is that Friday afternoon is their “slow time.” They suggested coming on Saturday from 11AM-1PM. Also, in our excitement for a customer, we ran up to one while they were parking her car. This customer gave us stern feedback about running in the parking lot. We reflected on how we might feel if 5 kids were running at us for seemingly no reason.

We set up again on Saturday at the Old Farm Truck. After 2 hours we sold out of our product. Hurray!

Extra! Extra! Read all about…us!

Our local paper was interested in the story and many local businesses sold copies of the paper with our story on the front page, above the fold!

Community Impact

Our next steps: We raised a lot of money for our savings ($10 each!), and we donated $85 to the Healthy Harvest Food Bank. Before Christmas we went to their local distribution center and helped them sort food for the holidays. This summer we hope to do “gleening,” after a harvest, picking the leftover food from the fields.


Make sure you choose something that people like and sell it in a place that has a lot of people walking in and out.  And make sure you donate some of the money to someone who needs it!

Words of Wisdom

Choose something seasonal, make a plan, and make sure not to forget any steps! Also, make sure you do something with your friends because it will be more fun that way.

Keep reading: