Farm to School Real Stories
In 1996, only two schools nationwide purchased foods directly from farmers to serve their students. Today, there are more than 2,300 Farm to School initiatives operating in all fifty states. Such partnerships between schools and local farmers have grown exponentially in Minnesota, serving students in 123 school districts. Farm to School is a win-win for America’s farmers, ranchers, schools and students.
Training School Foodservice Staff
A statewide collaboration of the University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota School Nutrition Association has developed new training programs for school foodservice staff. Farm to School: So Fresh, So Easy offers a series of five short video trainings on sourcing, menuing, prepping and promoting Farm to School items. Great Trays™ offered regional, hands-on trainings from February to November 2011, complete with recipes, sample menus, an equipment grant to receive a food processor and other tools.
Mobilizing Resources, Coordinating Efforts
Eleven member organizations throughout Minnesota are working together to maximize resources, ideas and impact of the state’s farm to school efforts. This Farm to School Leadership Team collaborates to overcome challenges faced by farms and schools as they strive to increase the number of healthy, local foods offered at schools. Working with University of Minnesota Humphrey fellows, a report was published outlining the most significant challenges to the growth of farm to school in Minnesota as well as a set of high-level policy recommendations.
Including Farm to School Wellness Policies
Willmar Public Schools incorporated Farm to School directives into its Wellness Policy. It requires the district to buy and feature farm fresh foods and incorporate nutrition education into the curriculum through experiential learning. One lesson has consumer science students creating school lunch recipes using local foods.
Finding the Right Source
Rich farmland surrounds Dover-Eyota School District; yet finding local farmers to source food was a challenge for this small district. Now, in its third full year of Farm to School, the district serves students local fruits, vegetables and ground turkey bought directly from farmers and reinforces healthy food offerings with classroom wellness lessons.
In contrast, the large urban district in Saint Paul sources its local produce from a distributor/processing partner who meets the need for large amounts of precut produce. Nutrition Services purchased 110,000 pounds of locally grown produce during the first six weeks of the 2009-10 school year.
Slowing Down School Food
Taking its cue from the international Slow Food movement, Hopkins Public Schools incorporates similar practices into its cafeterias: cooking whole foods from scratch in schools’ own kitchens. Students taste test new homemade recipes that include dishes like Caprese Salad and Sage Chicken Breast using local, seasonal ingredients when readily available.
Reaping the Bounty of a School Garden
An elementary school garden in Bemidji Area Schools supplies lettuce, spinach, radishes, cucumbers, beans, and more to the district’s schools each fall.
Planting Apple Trees on School Grounds
Moorhead Public Schools planted apple trees on its school grounds, paid for with Farm to School pilot funds from the Minnesota legislature. The district planted 100 apple trees in 7 different varieties at 6 schools throughout the district in hopes of feeding students for years to come.
Marketing Fresh Recipes to Students and Parents
Nearly 25% of food served to students in Wayzata Public Schools is locally grown or made. The district uses creative marketing strategies to promote its homemade recipes and encourage kids to talk with parents, teachers and school cooks about healthy food choices. It has a student-run greenhouse that supplies lettuce to the lunchroom and organizes a family event to celebrate Farm to School Month.
Connecting Students to the Land, Culture
At Pine Point School on the White Earth Indian Reservation, students visit a wild rice mill, apple orchard and heritage turkey farm. Teachers and tribal leaders are working to reintroduce local and traditional foods into is community’s food system. Students learn about the significance of these foods to the Ojibwe people through cooking classes, community art and vocabulary.
Investing in Local Communities
Real change comes from the ground up. Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) helps put systems in place to create healthier communities that encourage people to make healthy choices in their daily lives. By working in four areas – community, school, workplace and health care – SHIP programs help communities achieve widespread, lasting results.
Improving National Standards for School Meals
Millions of school children will get more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less fat and sodium in their lunches under new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards announced in January 2012. They are the first major changes to school lunches in 15 years.
Partnering for a Healthier Colorado
Farm to School partnerships in Greeley, Colorado involve community members and organizations that help maintain school gardens. Farm to School activities also include Harvest of the Month, local purchasing, and health and nutrition education with Farmer and Chef in the Classroom demonstrations.
Awarding Excellence in Georgia
Schools in Gwinnett County, Georgia feature a different locally grown fruit or vegetable on the lunch menu each month. The Georgia Department of Education and USDA recently honored the school district for its Farm to School efforts, which provided more than 800,000 servings of native Georgia produce during the 2010-2011 school year.
Buying Direct from Michigan Farmers
More than 80 percent of foodservice directors in Michigan have expressed interest in buying directly from local farmers, if possible. State organizations and universities are supporting partnerships between schools, foodservice professionals and distributors working to improve distribution, availability, communication and policy support.
Increasing Purchasing Power in the Upper Midwest
School Food FOCUS helps large school districts change the way they do business by leveraging knowledge and procurement power to purchase more fresh, local foods. In 2011, it created an Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab that will leverage the buying power of large school districts to benefit students at all schools in the 7 state region that includes Minnesota.
Creating Statewide Farm to School Legislation
- In Oregon, the Department of Education is required to help schools use Oregon food products from school gardens, promote food and garden based educational opportunities, and help schools incorporate wellness policies.
- The Oklahoma Legislature set aside $100,000 to support requirements for a statewide director to oversee Farm to School initiatives with help from a non-profit food policy council. The director must provide training and technical assistance to school food employees, facilitate communication between farmers and school districts, and establish partnerships with public and non-profit sources to implement a public campaign.
- A seven person Farm to School Council in Iowa appointed by the Governor encourages hands-on learning opportunities for students such as farm visits, cooking demonstrations and school gardening and composting programs. The council is also required to establish partnerships with other public agencies and nonprofit organizations to facilitate the program and receive grants.
For a more complete list of Farm to School legislation, click here.