Farm to school programs
Meet and greet events help to reduce barriers and increase potential for success.
The Farm to School Program helps connect local farmers and school food service staff to bring local fresh food into schools and other institutions. K-12 schools in Michigan spend about $200 million on food each year – Good Food Charter.
Purchasing local fresh produce could create new markets for Michigan farmers which can stimulate growth in Michigan agriculture, encourage the development of local food systems and increase access to good food.
Institutions could start by featuring a “harvest of the month” food purchased from a local farmer. Monthly tastings in the cafeteria, classroom tastings, featuring local food fundraisers (like selling pumpkins or apples) and featuring local food at school events can all start the effort to buy local.
Kathe Hale, Michigan State University Extension educator, and Colleen Matts, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems farm to school specialist, at recently met with a group of school food service directors in St. Clair County, Mich. to provide a basic overview of the program and start the discussion of how to purchase local food and use it in their school lunch programs. “School Food Service Director’s number one concern is food safety”, says Hale. “Everyone from the farmer to the food service staff and the food service director wants to make sure the food is safe for children.”
There are challenges that crop up in Farm to school programs – but programs like Meet and Greets – meetings for farmers and food service directors can help improve communication process, reduce barriers and help both growers and institutional food service directors make plans for how they work out the details to have a successful farm to school program. More information about farm to school programs can be found at Farm to School.