Farm to School continues to prosper in northwest Michigan

The Farm to School program is thriving in northwest Michigan, setting an excellent example of the impact the program has on sustaining regional food systems

Farm to School is thriving in the Grand Traverse Region. Leelanau County’s Leland Public School, which began its Farm to School program last year with assistance from a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant, has expanded its local and/or scratch food offerings to nearly every day of the week in 2012. The success of this program has been buoyed by buy-in from parents as well.

Farm to School encompasses a variety of locally-based food system efforts that connect local farms and food with schools, teachers and kids. While the main focus is to increase the amount of locally-grown food served in school meals, efforts have also focused on schoolyard gardens, farm field trips and farmers markets hosted by area schools.

The second annual curriculum night Farm to School Dinner, which showcases the schools delicious meal offerings, served more than 250 parents, students and staff this week – a number that has more than doubled since the first 2011 dinner. The Farm to School Dinner also served as the perfect venue for Leland Public School superintendent, food service director and Farm to School coordinator to receive a $4,870 grant from the Joan McGarry Foundation. The grant will be used for nutrition education, lunch menu sampling and a brand new Junior Iron Chef competition.

In Kalkaska County, Shetler’s Dairy, a family-owned, grass-fed dairy operation, is now providing all the milk for students in Kalkaska Public School District. Shetlers is processing 8,000 ½ pints of milk every week for delivery to the district’s schools. Cherry Street, Birch Street, Kalkaska High School, Kalkaska Middle School and Rapid City Schools are all participating. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Educator Ranae McCauley, based in Kalkaska County, will continue to work with the Shetlers in the hopes of expanding their efforts to other schools and hospitals as well.

If you are interested in Farm to School efforts and want to learn more, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems is offering the following training sessions:

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Livingston Educational Service Agency
1425 W Grand River Ave., McGuffey Room
Howell, MI 48843

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Grayling Charter Township
2090 Viking Way
Grayling, MI 49738

Friday, Sept. 28, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Kent County Office, Michigan State University Extension
775 Ball Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Monday, Oct. 1, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Michigan State University Detroit Center
3408 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201

For more information please contact Colleen Matts, MSU Farm to Institution Specialist at 517-432-0310.

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