Nebraska’s sweeping landscape is home to diverse agriculture practices. This helps farm to school in Nebraska take shape by embracing the entire plate.
Schools, student clubs and producer organizations have spearheaded a Nebraska Beef to Schools program. Dozens of schools have begun the process of sourcing local beef, either by donation or purchase. These local beef are being processed in local processing facilities.
School greenhouses are signing on to expand production from primarily ornamental and annual plants, to edible fruits and vegetables. Food service staff are purchasing school-grown produce and rolling it out into the School Lunch Program and snack programs. After school programs are building gardens and purchasing local produce for the afternoon snacks.
Partner organizations across the state, like Center for Rural Affairs and University of Nebraska Extension, have provided trainings for farmers and schools on making that direct farm to school connection.
Large and small districts in Nebraska agree that farm to school engages students and increases student participation, building healthy habits for a lifetime. Omaha Public Schools(Nebraska’s largest district) began a Nebraska’s Thursday program and is sourcing as much locally on the first Thursday of every month as possible. Litchfield Public Schools (a district of about 100 students) receives year-round produce from a local greenhouse that also provides educational experiences for students during the school year. These are just a couple of examples of stellar farm to school programs in our state.
Organizations are stepping up to the plate to participate in farm to school workshops and events. Several of the Nebraska School Nutrition Association districts have participated in farm tours and local food preparation cooking demos.
We are pulling the pieces together to provide support to cafeterias, classrooms, farmers, ranchers, students, teachers, school staff and administrators and parents who are looking to create or bolster local farm to school programs. Connecting these dots of interest in farm to school in Early Childcare facilities, k-12 school districts, or Summer Food Service Programs will create healthier communities and a stronger economy in Nebraska.