Farm-to-high school

Grand Rapids West Catholic High celebrates “Loco for Local” Lunch on September 2.

Farm-to-high school

West Catholic High School’s students went “Loco for Local” on Wednesday September 2, 2015, enjoying a menu that included local sweet corn, apples, fresh salsa, and salad bar toppings. Food Service Director, Mary Jo Jones, and food service staff member Anne Willis purchased local food directly from area farms for their special lunch and the students were eager to try it.

“Kids eat great here. There is so much fresh food and meals made from scratch. There are also Gluten free and vegetarian choices as well as special items for other food allergies. There is really something for everyone. Featuring these local foods is so important. It is a representation of our community,” said Willis, who was recently hired as a food service assistant at West Catholic.

The tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, and apples were purchased from Brechting Farm in Alpine Township. The Dunneback and Girls farm provided the apples and more tomatoes. The Klein family’s Happy Apple Farm provided the tomatoes in the made from scratch salsa and bruschetta and the sweet corn.  

Ali, a senior at West Catholic, purchased macaroni and cheese, sweet corn, a local apple and sun chips for her lunch. She said she is a vegetarian and eats school meals fairly regularly. “I like the corn on the cob since it isn’t in a Styrofoam cup, like it usually is. I think buying local food is important, but I don’t want it to be too expensive.”

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A combo lunch, which includes a main dish, a fruit, salad, and milk, is $3.00, which is a typical price for many west Michigan area high school lunches. One student in line said he and his parents agreed that bringing a lunch from home is often less healthy and more expensive than school meals. Plus cold lunches from home require extra time to purchase, pack and carry.

Tony Fischer, the Assistant Principal at the school, runs a cash register during the lunch period. “In the last five years, school meal participation rates have increased dramatically. Mary Jo deserves a lot of credit for this. I also appreciate the state and national school meal changes, which have increased the amount of healthy food in our cafeteria. It used to be pizza and hot dogs and now it is a salad bar, fresh fruit and more healthy main dishes like the pulled pork on a pretzel bun that we have today,” said Fischer.

In addition to the amount of local food on the school menu, students enjoy a thirty-minute lunch every Wednesday and Friday. This is significantly longer than most school lunch periods, which typically range from fifteen to twenty minutes.

“During our extended lunch periods many more students purchase a salad because they know they will have time to eat it. We have three food service workers this year so lines should be fairly short to give students enough time to have an enjoyable lunch,” said Jones.

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Schools across the country have been embracing the farm-to-school movement and are putting more fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu. October is National Farm-to-School month, which also includes the national Food Day celebration and Michigan’s Apple Crunch event.

Michigan State University Extension’s Community Food Systems Work Team supports farm-to-school efforts through our FoodCorps program, the Cultivate Michigan campaign, and as activate members of the Michigan Farm-to-Institution Network

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