Food service staff and managers can learn techniques to work smarter, not harder, when finding and incorporating local fruits and vegetables. Dr. Fayrene Hamouz, UNL Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, will work to address establishing predictable demand and supply of locally grown food for Nebraska Child Nutrition Programs. Hamouz recognizes that “adding local fruits and vegetables to the school lunch menu invests in the local economy, as well as contributes to the health and vitality of Nebraska’s youth.”
Farmers will learn techniques for connecting and working with schools including food safety regulations, navigating school order cycles, product demand, and packaging needs.
“An increasing number of farmers are growing food for local markets in Nebraska,” said Wyatt Fraas, Center for Rural Affairs, who is facilitating the farmer portion of the workshop. “Many of them are looking for additional opportunities to provide fresh, healthy food to their community, such as in school meals.”
Fraas continued, “This workshop will give farmers some marketing knowledge and access to school food buyers. It’s a good opportunity to describe their crops and meet the school food service people who could become customers. In addition, farmers can learn just what produce or other farm products these Nebraska schools are looking for.”
Lunch will be provided at no cost and will feature recipes that highlight scratch cooking techniques and fruits and vegetables that are locally available. This time will be spent in shared one-on-one and group discussion in order for farmers and school food service staff to make connections and share ideas.
“This project enhances the profitability of Nebraska’s specialty crop growers by expanding an underutilized market, or in many cases, opening a currently untapped new market,” said Sarah Smith, Nebraska Farm to School Lead with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Schools are reliable large purchasers of specialty crops, and by tapping into this market, specialty crop farmers can benefit greatly.”
According to Smith, Students who try fresh local fruits and vegetables at school often go home asking for the same products at their dinner tables. Now is the time for schools to consider how local foods can expand menu planning opportunities in the National School Lunch Program, and at the same time increase student enjoyment.
What: FREE Nebraska Farm to School Workshop
Who: School food service staff and managers; Specialty Crop Producers (fruit, vegetable, nut, herb)
When: Saturday, April 2,
9am - 2pm, includes lunch
Where: North Platte Public School
301 W F St., North Platte, NE
Continuing Education Credits will be available.