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Sea to School: models of local, sustainable seafood for schools

NFSN Staff Monday, October 05, 2015
By Simca Horwitz, Massachusetts Farm to School

 Photo credit: North Coast Sedfood
At school districts around the country, farm to school programs are looking beyond the field and out to sea. From coastal New England to the Alaskan shores, schools are incorporating locally caught seafood into school meal programs as a healthy protein whose purchase strengthens coastal communities. 

In Massachusetts, expanding school food procurement to include locally caught fish is a sensible opportunity – after all, our state is home to many of the country’s oldest fishing communities. The fishing industry has faced significant hardship in recent years though, with strict catch limits imposed on some of the most popular species of fish.  While fishermen are making strong efforts to fish sustainably, catching only abundant species, most consumers are unfamiliar and uninterested in these available seafood options. Schools provide the perfect outlet for these underutilized fish, offering a new market for struggling fishermen and an affordable protein alternative in the lunchroom.  

The partnership between Gloucester Public School District and a local Community Supported Fishery is a shining example of sea to school success. A small city north of Boston, Gloucester has been an important center of the fishing industry for hundreds of years. So when Food Service Director Phil Padulsky joined the school district and saw Alaskan Pollock fish sticks on the menu, he knew their had to be a better fresh and local alternative. 

Thanks to a few introductions from community partners, Padulsky was able to form a relationship with nearby Cape Ann Fresh Catch (CAFC), a local non-profit and the country’s largest Community Supported Fishery. Together, they’re bringing fresh seafood that’s landed in small fishing boats off Gloucester straight into the cafeteria. But the partnership is more than just procurement oriented. CAFC also conducts fish preparing trainings for school food service staff, hosts student taste tests and offers extensive promotional materials for the district to use. 

And the efforts and perseverance have paid off: Gloucester now offers locally caught fish at its high school every other Friday, and is aiming to expand the program to the district’s elementary schools. 

 Photo Credit: North Coast Seafood
Gloucester and Cape Ann Fresh Catch aren’t the only sea to school partnership in Massachusetts. North Coast Seafoods, a local seafood distributor, is working with dozens of school districts to help identify and procure appropriate species of fish for the school setting. For example, underutilized species such as Acadian Redfish and New England Sole are abundantly available and sustainably fished in waters around Massachusetts, making these affordable for schools at under 75 cents per serving. 

Another economical seafood option is the odd sized pieces of fish generated from the mechanized filleting process. These special cuts can be used to make dishes like fish burgers, fish tacos, Coconut Crusted Acadian Redfish and “Fish-in-Chips” (wild caught Gulf of Maine Redfish in a low-fat Cape Cod Potato Chip crumb). What was once a wasted food product is now a healthy, delicious meal that’s easy on the wallet and has students coming back for more. 

Chicopee Public Schools knows this is true. With 65% of students qualifying for free and reduced price meals, Chicopee found that regional seafood was one of the most economical protein options for its cafeterias.  So, it recently became the first school district to source 100% sustainably harvested seafood from the nearby Gulf of Maine, giving its 7,800 students regular access to affordable, sustainable and nutritious meals. There are over 30 districts like Chicopee in Massachusetts now serving fresh, sustainable and regional seafood.

With effective partnerships, a transparent supply chain, and a little creativity and perseverance, these sea to school efforts are bringing fresh, local foods to thousands of students, and providing robust economic opportunities for the sustainable fishing industry throughout the New England region. From Gloucester to Nantucket, this is the next exciting wave of our Massachusetts farm to school story. 

Farm to School Month arrives – a time for action!

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 01, 2015
By Stacey Malstrom, Communications Director

National Farm to School Month has arrived! And there couldn’t be a better time to lift up the connections students are making to local food and farmers across the country. This annual celebration of food education, school gardens and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients was brought to life by Congress in 2010 in order to raise awareness of the importance of farm to school as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate communities about the origin of their food. 

Since 2010, Farm to School Month has brought together thousands of kids, teachers, parents, farmers, food enthusiasts, business owners, school lunch professionals and advocates from diverse sectors who believe in the power of farm to school to benefit people, planet and profit. 

What do these people have in common? They know that farm to school works to improve child nutrition and solve many of the challenges schools face in the lunchroom, while at the same time creating economic opportunities for farmers and communities. Students who are properly introduced to new foods through farm to school are more likely to adopt long-term healthy eating habits, participate in their school’s meal plan and are less likely to waste food, which results in a better bottom line for schools and healthier kids.

This year, Farm to School Month is more than just a celebration – it is a time for action. Yesterday, Congress missed its deadline to pass a new version of the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR), the bill that funds the USDA Farm to School Program and many other important programs for kids. Now more than ever, Congress needs to hear from you about why farm to school is important to your kids, your farmers and your community to ensure that these federal programs can meet the needs of schools and farmers nationwide. 

Throughout October, join us on our blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we celebrate stories of farm to school success and innovation across the country. With your help, we can elevate the conversation around farm to school and demonstrate that this is the path to a healthier next generation. Here’s how you can get involved:
1. Spread the word: Share your farm to school stories with friends and neighbors; post our Farm to School Month graphics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; use the hashtags #farmtoschool and #F2SMonth on social media; alert local media to what’s happening in your area. Farm to school has grown from a few schools in the 1990s to more than 40,000 today because of people like you educating their communities and policymakers. For more ideas on how you can raise your voice, explore our Communications Toolkit
2. Join our Big Day of Action: Pledge to make yourself heard on Oct. 22. It’s time for Congress to finish CNR and strengthen the USDA Farm to School Program. Call your legislator, tweet a photo of your school garden or local lunch, and use the hashtag #moreF2SinCNR to show your support for the Farm to School Act of 2015. Sign on today! 
3. Become a member: Join our network of 12,000+ farm to school advocates to stay up-to-date on the latest stories, best practices, learning opportunities and policy actions to continue the growth of farm to school nationwide. Already a member? Submit a farm to school story or tell us why farm to school is important to your community using our Share Form. Check back soon to learn about our Farm to School Month sweepstakes for new members and storytellers. 

New to farm to school? Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 13 from 12-12:30pm CT for an introduction to the movement in our Farm to School 101 webinar. Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network's Director of Programs, and Andrea Northup, Farm to School Coordinator at Minneapolis Public Schools, will discuss the three core elements of farm to school - procurement, education and school gardens - and how the movement is working to connect children in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to healthy food. You can register for the webinar here

Whatever you do this month, take a moment to appreciate the harvest, thank a farmer, and smile about the more than 23.5 million students who are engaging with local food through taste tests and school gardens, connecting with their community and neighbors on farm field trips, and growing up to be informed eaters. 

Thank you to our Farm to School Month sponsors Organic Valley, Chartwells, Mamma Chia and Stand2Learn, as well as the hundreds of Outreach Partners who are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion all year.  

Happy National Farm to School Month! 

Farm to School Month 2014: Success and Celebration

NFSN Staff Thursday, November 13, 2014


Thank you for celebrating National Farm to School Month with us! Throughout October, kids in all 50 states plus D.C. ate local food in their school cafeterias and participated in garden events, farm field trips and more.

We know that many of you were involved in local events and helped spread the word about Farm to School Month, and we want you to know that your hard work and outreach made a huge impact. Local media across the country covered farm to school events, more than 38,000 people visited FarmtoSchool.org last month, and our messaging reached an audience of 800,000+, thanks to the support of our partners. Together we are creating new markets for local farms while helping build the next generation of healthy, informed eaters - thank you!

We also want to congratulate the winners of our Farm to School Month contest! Dan Sharp in Grand Junction, Colo., won $1,000 from NFSN for a farm to school project in his community, and five additional winners will receive a free Project Learning Garden lesson kit from the Captain Planet Foundation.

Through a special grant from UNFI Foundation, NFSN also awarded Farm to School Month funding to schools in 10 states to host harvest events, local food tastings and more to spread the word about the benefits of farm to school.

Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors: Organic Valley, Captain Planet Foundation, Orfalea Foundation, UNFI Foundation, Chartwells and Truitt Family Foods.


Farm to Preschool with Pumpkins

NFSN Staff Friday, October 31, 2014

Guest post by Brittany Wager, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project 

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project serves as the Southeast Regional Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog posts during Farm to School Month. 


One by one, preschool students at Fairview Head Start in Jackson County, North Carolina removed handfuls of pumpkin seeds and examined them carefully before washing them in bowls of water and preparing them to roast.

Christina Shupe, the leader for the activity, answered their inquiries about the different varieties of local pumpkins she had brought to their school that day. “It looks like a spider web in there,” one student commented when she looked down into the pumpkin. “Where’s the spider?”

Christina is a junior at Western Carolina University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Program, and is in her second year of involvement with ASAP’s Growing Minds @ University project. The experiences at the "learning lab" sites and the training offered by ASAP builds the capacity of future nutrition professionals like Christina, as well as future teachers and health professionals, to incorporate local food and farm based experiences in their work.

The lesson began with students passing around a "mystery bag" containing miniature winter squash. They reached inside the bag, felt the items inside, and offered up guesses as to what it contained. “I think it’s a bird,” one student guessed. Christina opened the bag and explained to the students what was inside, and they had an additional opportunity to smell and touch the squash.

“After that we looked at the different varieties of local pumpkins I had brought with me,” said Christina. “The students voted as to which one they wanted to open up and look inside.”

After inspecting the inside of the pumpkin, they each reached in and got a handful of seeds, rinsed off the goo in water, and put them on wax paper to bake. “The kids seemed to really enjoy washing off the goo, they were very careful and deliberate about it and were really engaged in the activity,” Christina said. “And of course they wanted to know when they could eat the seeds!”

Experiences like these are having a positive impact on Head Start and elementary students, their families and the university students. In recent family surveys, 74 percent of respondents indicated that their child’s experiences with the project have had a positive impact on how their family eats and thinks about food. The teachers of the project’s elementary and Head Start schools report a substantial change in children’s willingness to try new foods and to eat healthy snacks and lunches. The teachers also report that the multi-faceted approach of farm to school benefits the children academically, nutritionally and socially.

Christina sees the value in the way the project is preparing her to be a leader in her career. “As a future dietitian I hope to continually work to educate all people on healthy and sustainable foods, as well as to provide people of all ages positive experiences with local and healthy produce.”

If you’d like to lead a pumpkin exploration activity with young children, check out the lesson plan Christina used on ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program website.

Captain Planet Foundation helps Learning Gardens grow

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 30, 2014

Guest post by Leesa Carter, Executive Director, Captain Planet Foundation 




Based on the critically-acclaimed animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) was co-founded in 1991 by media mogul Ted Turner and producer Barbara Pyle. Since then, CPF has played a critical role in helping to ensure that the next generation of business leaders and policy makers are environmentally literate citizens who leverage technology and information to manage and protect the air, land and water upon which all life depends.


CPF is a grant-making foundation that has distributed more than $2.5 million to over 1,800 hands-on environmental education projects with schools and youth-serving non-profits in all 50 U.S. states and 23 countries. More than 1 million children have directly participated in and benefited from these educational projects. In addition to its Small Grants Program, the Captain Planet Foundation also operates: Project Learning Garden (PLG), the Leadership Center, SAGES, Planeteer Clubs and a number of other science education initiatives that exploit the intersections between technology, innovation, the environment and personal action. 


In its first 20 years, CPF’s Small Grants Program funded over 750 school or community gardens, outdoor learning labs and pollinator gardens. Captain Planet Foundation’s innovative Project Learning Garden was developed using the best practices and models from those grantees in order to provide schools with strategies for building effective and sustainable garden-based learning programs. The goal of PLG is to: integrate school gardens with core subject lessons; connect gardens to school cafeterias; help students develop an affinity for nature and an early palate for fruits and vegetables; and increase teacher capacity for providing project-based learning for students.

"One key element often overlooked in getting kids to eat better is the importance of how they eat at school," says Kyla Van Deusen, CPF's Project Learning Gardens program manager. "Kids learn how to enjoy fruits, vegetables and salads as a part of lunch, and this program has a direct impact on developing their palates from an early age. That palate development can also have an impact on how their parents eat, home meal preparation and childhood obesity prevention. Parents often report that their children ask them to buy new vegetables at the grocery store after growing and cooking the veggies themselves as part of a school garden program. One five-year-old said she preferred eating raw Brussels sprouts in the garden to her sour gummy worm treat!"

Teachers at CPF Learning Garden schools receive hands-on training, garden-based lessons aligned to national standards, lesson kits filled with supplies, a schoolyard garden, a fully-equipped mobile cooking cart and summer garden management. By the end of 2014, the program will have 135+ PLG schools in public schools around metro-Atlanta and in a pilot program in Ventura County, Calif.

This Fall, FoodCorps came to Georgia and CPF was thrilled to be selected as a service site for four amazing service members: Andrea Blanton, Sarah Dasher, Lauren Ladov and Bang Tran. FoodCorps is providing support to Project Learning Garden schools by doing garden tastings with the mobile cooking cart, supporting teachers as they perform PLG lessons for the first time, working with cafeteria teams to encourage local procurement decisions, and connecting chefs and farmers to schools for future support of the PLG program.

Project Learning Garden lessons are available free and can be downloaded from the CPF website. CPF recently launched a partnership with Pratt Industries that will allow any U.S. elementary school (with an existing garden) to order the classroom lesson supply kits at cost – which is about $400 for 18 lesson kits (3 lessons per grade, K-5). Schools can also order the Project Learning Garden mobile cooking cart at cost (about $725 – shipping included).  

As part of our Farm to School Month sponsorship this year, CPF is donating the full-school lesson supply kits (K-5) and mobile cooking carts to five lucky, winning schools! Find all the contest details here. For more information about PLG or to order kits and carts, visit projectlearninggarden.com.

Educational Support Professionals: Creative Partners in Farm to School

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guest post by Jonathan Falk, National Education Association, and Simca Horwitz, Massachusetts Farm to School Project 

Nancy Burke (right) and student Taylor Warren (left) in the Haverhill High School garden. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Farm to School Project) 

In the US, more than 2 million Education Support Professionals (ESPs) play vital roles in helping create great public schools for our students. Nearly 500,000 of these educators are members of the National Education Association (NEA).  Working as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, food service staff, and in many other jobs, these essential educators help ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished and well-educated. 

ESPs are committed to their careers, their students and their communities. Seventy-five percent of NEA ESP members live in their school districts, and on average they have worked more than 11 years in their jobs. ESPs interact with student in different places than teachers do – on the school bus, in the cafeteria and at recess  – and they often have multi-year relationships with students and their families and care deeply about their students’ welfare.

All of this makes ESPs tremendous resources for helping to connect students, parents and community allies with farm to school activities.  Yet while thousands of schools across the country are engaged in farm to school work, there are very few places where ESPs are helping to lead these efforts.

The National Education Association and its state affiliate, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), recognized this missed opportunity began a farm to school pilot project in 2012 to develop and support ESP-led farm to school activities. NEA/MTA quickly realized that Massachusetts Farm to School (MFTS), the state lead organization for the National Farm to School Network, could be a key ally, and the organizations began collaborating to engage MTA ESP members in farm to school.

With technical assistance from MFTS and from NEA’s own Health Information Network, MTA’s project has had three principal components:

  1. Providing training and resources to MTA ESP members about student nutrition, farm to school and how they can be involved.
  2. Identifying ESP groups that want to work in their school districts to develop or expand farm to school.
  3. Sponsoring a mini-grant program to support these local programs.

In the 2013-2014 school year, NEA and MFTS identified the Haverhill Education Association as a group to help implement a pilot farm to school grant program. Haverhill is a diverse gateway city in northeastern Massachusetts, and the school district had already engaged in some basic farm to school activities.  

Nancy Burke, an ESP who works as a paraeducator with students with disabilities at Haverhill High School, was inspired to start a school garden after participating in a workshop led by MFTS at Massachusetts Teacher’s Association’s annual ESP Conference. 

"I sat back and said to myself, this would be wonderful for our children, who could be exposed to the garden, grow vegetables and know where their food comes from," Burke explains. "They may never have that experience at home because of their disabilities.”  

With great tenacity, Burke enlisted a local Boy Scout to build a wheelchair-accessible raised bed garden in an under-utilized interior courtyard at Haverhill High School. He also built ramps to make the quad accessible to her students. 

According to Burke, development of the school garden program was a transformative experience. “It empowered me to take on a leadership role, which I've never had before.”

A Haverhill High School students displays a harvest from the school's garden. (Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Farm to School Project.) 

With funds from an NEA/ MTA farm to school mini-grant, Burke and the other ESPs in Haverhill have made additional investments in their school gardens, such as automated watering equipment and small tools. Encouraged by MTA to work collaboratively, teachers and paraeducators at three Haverhill schools are now working together on farm to school, with students at the alternative high school growing seedlings in their large greenhouse for other school gardens in the district.  

"Most of our students come from disadvantaged urban neighborhoods," explains Alternative School teacher Neil Wilkins. "Ninety-five percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch assistance. We hope that providing them access to their own garden from start to finish can be a life-changing experience."

NEA/MTA and MFTS continue to work together, providing training and technical assistance to ESPs throughout the state to help them undertake farm to school projects. We hope to expand the mini-grant program to an additional three districts and watch the role of ESPs in the farm to school movement flourish in Massachusetts. 

For more information about the NEA/MTA farm to school project, or if you are interested in working with ESPs in your community to develop farm to school programs, contact Jonathan Falk at the NEA’s Education Support Personnel Quality Department.

Today is Farmer Resource Day!

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Guest post by Alicia Harvie, Farm Aid

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to honor the fast-growing connections taking root nationwide between schools, family farmers and the good food they produce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) first ever Farm to School Census revealed exciting growth in these programs sprouting up across the country; there are now farm to school programs in more than 40,000 schools reaching 23.5 million students nationwide.

Today, in partnership with the National Farm to School Network, we celebrate the family farmers across the country who participate in farm to school programs and bring healthy foods to our nation’s students. Farm Aid believes farm to school programs benefit everyone – farmers, schools, students and communities all have something to gain from these unique partnerships. Read on for new ideas and resources to develop farm to school programs in your community.

Ideas for Farmers: Seeding a new partnership

Making an estimated $3 billion in food purchases each year, school districts across the country represent huge potential markets for farmers interested in selling their produce locally. Here are some ways for farmers to get involved in the farm to school movement:

  • Start a dialogue. Identify your school district's food service director and speak with them about their sourcing policies and capacity to buy your products. Be clear about your production capacity, harvest schedule and pricing options.

  • Don’t limit yourself. Let the school know if you have a CSA or sell at local farmers' markets. If there's enough interest, consider adding a CSA pick up location at the school. Advertise your farm at a PTA meeting or introduce yourself on the school's website. These are all great ways to make sure students, parents and school faculty know about you and the wholesome products you raise.

  • Host a farm field trip. Make your farm their classroom! Use field trips as a way to give students hands-on experience in food and farming and a chance to meet their farmer. They'll love it. and the experience will likely spark a deeper interest in food.

  • Explore similar partnerships with colleges, universities, hospitals, and local businesses. Leverage your partnership with one institution to bring your products to another!

For Schools: Bring the farmer forward!

Farm to school programs offer kids much more than access to high quality, nutritious food – many programs integrate farm and food education into the curriculum as well. When you tap into the vast wisdom of family farmers, you can’t help but provide your students with a powerful experience! Consider these ideas:

  • Let students meet your Farmer Heroes! Invite farmers who participate in your school's food programs to speak about what they do or enlist their expertise in getting an edible school garden planted. Give farmers an opportunity to share their knowledge, show where good food comes from and answer students' questions.

  • Visualize the journey from farm to fork, from seed to fruit, or cow to cheese! Post photos from your partner farms in the cafeteria or the classroom and think of creative ways to visually bring what happens on the farm to the student experience.

  • Have farmers craft a farm fresh menu. Working the land, day-in and day-out, farmers are very in tune with the seasons. Invite them to join your team in designing seasonally appropriate menus or offer their favorite recipes for the produce they provide your cafeteria throughout their harvest.

  • Compensate fairly. Farming is an incredibly labor-intensive and time consuming job. Consider thoughtful ways to compensate participating farmers – financially and otherwise – for any extra time they lend in the classroom or on their farms.


Farm Aid Can Help

For more family farmers to thrive, the reach of good food must expand further, including each and every school in the country. Our Farm Aid Resource Network fosters important connections using our online catalog of more than 725 resources and valuable organizations — like the National Farm to School Network — to help you build a strong farm to school program. Explore these selected resources:

  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers has created several resources for farm to school programming, including this great guide for farmer field trips.

  • The fine print and bottom line: Farmer's Legal Action Group (FLAG) offers comprehensive farmer guides to contracting and marketing, including this tip sheet for selling directly to schools.

  • This guide by Vermont Feed includes strategies for marketing local food to schools and offers easy to use, hands-on, farm-based educational activities.

  • The Hayride, an resource for educational farm field trips, was created by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), located in North Carolina, the host of this year’s Farm Aid benefit concert!   

For more inspiration, we love USDA’s latest promotional video of farm to school programs and how they support family farmers, kids, local economies and communities

Collaboration with a Crunch

NFSN Staff Monday, October 27, 2014


Guest post by Vanessa Herald, University of Wisconsin, Madison - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

The University of Wisconsin, Madison - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems serves as the Great Lakes Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network. Each of our regional lead agencies will be contributing blog post during Farm to School Month. 

By this time in October, most farms and schools in our Great Lakes Region have experiences the first hard frost of the season, if not the first snowfall. We face the challenges of a short growing season every year, but that doesn’t stop local schools, community organizations, non-profits, state and local agencies from establishing incredible farm to school programs. As a region, what could we do to celebrate National Farm to School Month, encourage new schools to connect with local farms to feature a local food item and have fun? Our answer was the first Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch!

As a region, the six states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Indian boast farm to school programs in 6,664 schools, reaching over 3,347,008 students. Our regional apple producers grow at least 320 million pounds of apples for fresh eating. What better to connect our regional growers and students than to encourage everyone to bite into a regional apple at noon on Food Day, October 24! In Michigan alone, last year over 74,000 students and residents participated in the Michigan Apple Crunch sponsored by Cherry Capital Foods, a Michigan-based distributor that works directly and exclusively with farmers, growers and producers from their home state. 

The Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch was a bushel of success. Not only did schools and school districts across the region chomp into apples, so did other farm to school partners like the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Ohio State University Extension The School Nutrition Association of Michigan even hosted an Apple Crunch Party at their annual conference. 

“The Crunch is a simple and flexible way to get schools excited about celebrating Wisconsin food. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed by how complex farm to school can look, and this is a simple way to celebrate it,” says Sarah Elliott, Wisconsin State Lead based at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. 


And celebrate they did, with over 100 schools participating in the Crunch. This was very apparent in the Janesville School District, which hosted a big Apple Crunch Celebration. Janesville School District is home to 10,000 students in Southern Wisconsin, and has committed to purchasing local foods for this school year. Janesville made the most of their Crunch during lunch period last Friday. A huge, hand-painted farm to school poster accompanied special guests Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel, Janesville School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Schulte, and Representative Amy Loudenbeck, along with hundreds of enthusiastic sixth grade students at Marshall Elementary School. 

At 11:45 they ceremoniously counted down and loudly crunched into local apples from Brightenwoods Orchard. Special guests Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel and Janesville School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Schulte joined the sixth grade class at Marshall Elementary School to ceremoniously count down and crunch into local apples from Brightenwoods Orchard. The event was a celebration of local foods, local farmers and the benefits of fruits and vegetables. Simultaneously, all students in the district were served the same local apples for lunch, along with an October menu full of local food items.

Jim Degan, School Nutrition Manager for Janesville, began planning for the event in September. “Farm to school takes a lot of partnerships and commitment. The goal of the Apple Crunch is to generate some awareness of our farm to school efforts, and the partnerships that make it work.” Degan sees farm to school as a value to local farmers, the local community and students. “The quality and taste of local products is fantastic. You don’t get that taste anywhere else. Sometimes it can be hard to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, so the good quality and colors of the local products really helps.” This was evident at the Apple Crunch, as student enthusiastically, and loudly, showed their approval for these local apples.

“Folks all across the state are very excited about the Crunch, in part because it’s a collective activity that brings us all together. People felt like they were part of something bigger than just what’s happening in their own school,” commented Elliott. And as students, teachers and community members from across the region bit into their delicious apples last week, we all felt the enthusiasm generated by the simple act of crunching into a local apple.

 

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