Senator Goeff Hansen partners with MSU Extension to promote Michigan fruits and vegetables

Senator Goeff Hansen partners with MSU Extension to promote Michigan-grown food options in Fruitport community schools.

Senator Goeff Hansen believes that Michigan school children should be more informed about the food produced and sold in Michigan. “I support efforts to introduce our children to healthier food options, which helps support our local farmers expand their market opportunities, and in turn promotes Michigan agriculture,” explained Hansen who represents Muskegon, Newaygo, Mason and Oceana Counties.

Kendra Wills, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension community food systems educator in west Michigan, invited Hansen to participate in a “farm-to-pizza” activity for two Fruitport, Mich. community elementary schools on April 16, 2012.

Farm-to-Pizza is a lesson plan where students learn knife skills to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables, and make a vegetable pizza. Farm-to-pizza is a fun activity where students are encouraged to try new healthy foods, while at the same time, learn about how fruits and vegetables are produced in Michigan.

Senator Hansen helped the students cut fruits and vegetables and build their pizzas. “Let’s see you get as many colors on your pizza as you can,” instructed Hansen. While the pizzas were cooking, the senator read the students a book about how common lunch foods are grown and processed.

Whole wheat English muffins served as the pizza crust. Muffins, pizza sauce and shredded cheese were provide by Pat McGee, Fruitport Community Schools food service director, who was eager to host the activity and helped coordinate the program. McGee is a strong supporter of healthy eating and of efforts to bring locally grown foods to schools, a movement known as “farm-to-school.” McGee has been purchasing apples from Mike Gavin of Gavin Orchards in Coopersville, Mich. for a few years. She says Gavin’s apples are so well liked by the students she’s seen a 60 percent increase in consumption of fresh, whole apples as a result.

After the pizzas were baked in the oven, students had a chance to try them. Students were encouraged to use positive, descriptive words about their pizza and the new fruits and vegetables they tried. Most students gave their pizza a “thumbs-up” and several commented that they liked the crunch of the peppers, tomatoes, onions and spinach leaves combined with the saltiness of the olives and feta cheese.

For more information about MSU Extension’s community food systems and nutrition programs, visit the MSU Extension website.

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