Celebrating Made in Michigan week at school cafeterias

Students enjoy a variety of healthful local foods in May.

Country Dairy MilkSeveral Michigan school food service departments are supporting Michigan agriculture and food processors by offering a special “Made in Michigan” menu in May.  As a community food systems educator with Michigan State University Extension, and a healthy eating coach for Grand Rapids Public Schools, this is a great opportunity to educate students, teachers, and school nutrition professionals about Michigan agricultural products.

In Grand Rapids Public Schools, special Michigan products served at lunch included: steamed Michigan asparagus, Coles whole-grain garlic toast, a Bosco cheese stick, and milk from Country Dairy.  Country Dairy milk is served daily all year in special half pint, recyclable plastic containers designed specifically for school meal programs.

I was able to eat lunch with the students the day asparagus was served. It was steamed and served with olive oil and zesty seasoning. As a healthy eating coach at Congress Elementary, I rewarded students that tried asparagus with a stamp on their hand (a surprisingly effective incentive). Many students were pleasantly surprised when they tried the asparagus.

When I shared with the students that asparagus is a stem that is hand cut by farmers in Michigan riding on a special vehicles that ride low to the ground, they seemed more interested in trying the vegetable. Just a little information about how vegetables grow really does increase students’ appreciation for how food gets on their plates. 

Student holding up asparagus stalkIn Waterford Public Schools, which is a recipient of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School grant, students will enjoy Michigan apple cinnamon French toast, Michigan apple slices, Michigan strawberries, as well as Michigan milk (served daily) and a whole-grain Bosco break stick.  Kathe Hale, another community food systems educator with Michigan State University Extension, is working with Waterford Public Schools to connect them with area farmers who can provide produce for school meals. Increasing the amount of Michigan foods purchased and consumed in schools is a goal of MSU Extension. To learn more about community food systems and see a list of educators in MSU Extension, view Extension’s informational flyer.

Farmers interested in selling produce to schools should contact their local school food service director and discuss ideas. Michigan Farm to School offers a guide for farmers interested in farm-to-school opportunities. School districts interested in sourcing from local farms should prepare a bid request. Michigan Farm to School also has tips on preparing a farm-to-school bid request and ideas for how to connect with farmers.  The Michigan Farm-to-School website has all kinds of great resources for all parties interested in increasing the amount of Michigan foods in schools, which is a win-win for Michigan farmers and schoolchildren.

Photos by Kendra Wills

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