Throughout October, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has celebrated the partnerships between farmers and their local school districts at a series of statewide events. Shakopee Public Schools, Northfield Public Schools, and Reach-Up Head Start in St. Cloud each played host to tours and events to celebrate the connection between children and local foods.
“Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants support farmers by connecting them to alternative markets,” said Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture Andrea Vaubel. “Some of the added benefits are healthier, locally grown choices for school lunches, and stronger connections between students and the farmers in their communities. Relationships with local farmers can have a lasting impact for young students in terms of future food choices and developing a better understanding of agriculture.”
Special events throughout Farm to School Month offer another chance for farmers to connect with students.
At Jackson Elementary School in Shakopee, members of Minnesota’s Farm to School Leadership team toured the cafeteria to see equipment purchased through the MDA’s AGRI Farm to School Grant Program. The tour gave Thousand Hills Cattle Company a chance to meet students and staff at the school, where their all-beef hotdogs were on the day’s menu. Shakopee Public Schools used grant funding to purchase eight milk coolers, with the goal of increasing the sales of milk from Hastings Co-op Creamery. They received a second grant to purchase a new walk-in cooler and walk-in freezer to create housing space for additional Minnesota grown produce.
On October 5, Northfield Public Schools also played host to show off their combination oven/steamer and countertop freezer, both purchased with AGRI Farm to School Grant funds. The freezers now stock foods produced by Minnesota companies like JonnyPops and Mixmi. Northfield Public Schools also celebrated Minnesota Thursday by serving foods from local producers like Fireside Apple Orchard. The district strives to feature at least five Minnesota produced items on its menu each month.
Today in St. Cloud, Reach-Up Head Start observed Farm to School Month by participating in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch. Students counted down and crunched into locally grown apples together, alongside other schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community organizations throughout the Great Lakes region. An estimated 231,367 students and youth participated from over 600 locations.
Farm to School Month, observed throughout the month of October, enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy foods and local producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education organizations. Farm to School Month also helps ensure that schools’ dollars stay within the local economy when schools purchase foods area regional farms.
For more information, visit the MDA’s AGRI Farm to School and AGRI Farm to Early Care and Education Grants pages. Applications are currently open for both grant programs, with the deadline to apply at 4:00 p.m. CST on Thursday, November 16, 2017.
Alauna Yust, MDA Communications