Nebraska Farm to School Summit held in Aurora - 2nd Annual Summit Focuses on Bringing Healthy, Nebraska-grown foods to Schools

Release Date: 

10/24/2014

Contact(s): 

Sarah Smith, sarahs@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs Nebraska Farm to School Lead, Phone: (307) 321-9766

Lyons, NE - Over 100 people from across Nebraska attended the Center for Rural Affairs’ second annual Nebraska Farm to School Summit on Wednesday, October 22, at the Leadership Center in Aurora, Nebraska. The summit was for farmers, ranchers, school food service staff, parents, students, and community members interested in Farm to School programs.
 

“Summit attendees gathered to hear success stories, learn best practices, and most importantly
connect with each other. This effort will grow opportunities for Nebraska food producers,
and healthy, delicious food options for our Nebraska students.”
Sarah Smith, Center for Rural Affairs
 
State Senator Richard L. Kolowski (District 31 - Millard, Elkhorn) kicked off the summit with the opening keynote address, “Statewide Action to Support Farm to School,”discussing how the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of local food in Nebraska can be improved. Kolowski, an educator for over 40 years, introduced a 2014 resolution, LR 545, for the purpose of studying statewide efforts to improve Nebraska’s access to local food supply and distribution networks.
 
In breakout sessions farm to school stakeholders heard from school and farmer panelists, and took advantage of question/answer sessions. A lightening round of presentations highlighted successful farm to school relationships, growing practices, policy development, and processing options.
 
Among the attendees were Robert and Kristine Bernt of Clear Creek Organic Farms (http://clearcreekorganicfarms.webs.com/). Along with their 12 children, they operate a certified organic farm and ranch raising organic vegetables, meat, and dairy cows; processing butter, cheese and ice cream on their farm near Spalding. The Bernts came to the summit because they are passionate about healthy foods and are interested in supplying food to schools through farm to school programs.
 
“I gained new knowledge and assurance that the good food I can provide to schools
is the right thing to do for our kids from a health and nutrition perspective,” said Robert Bernt.
 
“We have an issue with the food our children eat at school,” continued Bernt. “They’re not getting the nutrients they need. Their health is getting worse and worse. If we get our foot in the door here at this summit we can start selling healthy, nutritious, nutrient-dense foods to the schools so kids get local produce - whether it’s once a week or even once a month.”
 
Bernt believes health issues in children - such as the 1 in 3 Nebraska children that are overweight - and lack of nutritious food served at most schools could be solved with farm to school programs. “Once these kids taste food that’s allowed to ripen on the vine and not in a box, is prepared properly, and has the flavor they are gonna like, they start eating more food that helps improve their health.”
 
According to Elisha Smith of the Center for Rural Affairs, at the close of the summit, Bernt had three serious inquiries from schools to follow up with after the summit.
 
“The path to farm to school may seem long and complex, but it doesn’t have to be,” added Smith. “Some of the school food service personnel and students we heard from at the summit said they ‘just went for it’ when starting a farm to school program. And just like a garden, once you plant the farm to school seed it will grow.”
 
Photographs of the Farm to School Summit are available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cfra/sets/72157648821350376/.
 
This summit was timely as October is National Farm to School month. Governor Dave Heineman also recently proclaimed October as Nebraska Farm to School month, recognizing the growing importance and role of Nebraska Farm to School programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local farming and ranching economies, spur job growth and educate children about agriculture and the origins of their food.
 
For more information on farm to school, visit http://www.cfra.org/farm-to-school or contact Sarah Smith at sarahs@cfra.org  or (307) 321-9766.
 
The Summit was funded by the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.