There’s still time to celebrate farm-to-school month

Check out these creative ideas to engage students and celebrate local farmers.

Photo by Kendra Wills

Photo by Kendra Wills

It was a picture perfect fall day for Belding’s third annual Michigan Apple Crunch on Oct. 13, 2016. Tracy Nelson, Belding Area Schools’ Food Serve Director, planned a large assembly for middle school and high school students at the football stadium. Local farmers were honored, honeycrisp apples were crunched, t-shirts were launched and an apple pie eating contest topped off the event. The technology department took photos of the event using a drone. This was just one of hundreds of schools in Michigan to participate in this annual event, which is part of the National Farm-to-School Month celebration.

“I love seeing kids get so excited about apples,” said Nelson. “This is our third year participating in the Michigan Apple Crunch and I think it is our best effort yet.” Nelson serves approximately 4,000 meals each day, which includes breakfast and lunch.

Schools interested in celebrating National Farm-to-School Month can find resources available online and some Michigan specific resources are available through the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems. Some creative ideas schools are implementing include: farm field trips, a farmers market at the school, school garden installations and recipe contests.

Michigan State University Extension is a partner in the Cultivate Michigan campaign, which promotes four featured foods each year for institution menus. The fall the featured food is Michigan potatoes and the winter food will be Michigan dried and frozen cherries. Past featured foods include: Michigan asparagus, Michigan apples, Michigan peppers, Michigan tomatoes, Michigan milk, Michigan carrots, Michigan kale, Michigan squash, Michigan dry beans, and Michigan blueberries. Click on each link to find out how to order each of these foods as well as institution-scale recipes.

Michigan is a unique because it can produce such a diverse amount of crops at a scale that can supply large schools, colleges and hospitals. In addition, many of these foods can be purchased through the broadline food distributors that schools and hospitals are already using.

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Photo by Kendra Wills

Local food sometimes comes at a higher cost. To assist with this, the Michigan Legislature recently provided state funding for an expanded “10 Cents A Meal” pilot program granting several west and northwest Michigan schools additional funding for local food purchasing. Schools interested in securing federal grant support for farm-to-school projects, should check out the recent USDA Farm-to-School Grant Request for Proposals notice.

Celebrating National Farm-to-School Month can be a rewarding experience for students, staff and local farmers. We hope you will make an effort to participate!

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