By Sarah Smith, former staff member
In 2010, Congress designated October as National Farm to School Month. This acknowledged and celebrated that farm to school programs are an important way to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and educate children about where their food comes from.
Here in Nebraska, we have many farm to school developments to celebrate this October. When Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation for Nebraska’s 2016 Farm to School Month yesterday, leaders in Nebraska farm to school stood alongside him.
- Superintendent of Auburn Public Schools Kevin Reiman is leading his school’s efforts to develop greenhouse food production and sell that food to the cafeteria.
- Nebraska Department of Education Nutrition Services Program Specialists Donna Handley and Marla Kurtenbach continue to offer stellar support and technical assistance to school food service programs, expanding schools’ capacity to serve healthy, local foods.
- Justin Jones, president and co-owner of local food distribution company Lone Tree Foods, brought along a bounty of seasonal produce, a small sample of the many types of food southeast Nebraska schools will purchase locally during Farm to School Month.
- Litchfield Public Schools Food Service Manager Janice Reynolds will transform and serve hundreds of pounds of raw school-grown produce this year. Much of that produce is started, maintained, and harvested by Litchfield’s fifth and sixth grade students, then distributed through the school meal and snack programs.
- Beth Bruck-Upton is director of health and wellness at Midwest Dairy, which offers grant opportunities and virtual farm tours to Nebraska schools and has become an important farm to school resource in Nebraska.
“Healthier Nebraska kids means smarter Nebraska kids, and as research indicates healthy students perform better on testing and are absent less often,” said Gov. Ricketts.
In Nebraska, 29 percent of schools report participating in farm to school activities, including sourcing food locally, growing food in a school garden, and learning about food and agriculture in the classroom. That’s 71 districts with 458 schools and at least 188,637 students (source: USDA farm to school census). An additional 13 percent of Nebraska schools plan to start farm to school activities in the future.
We hope that Nebraska schools and farmers will take One Small Step Forward for farm to school during the month of October. Join in the fun on Oct. 13 with the Midwest Apple Crunch, when students at schools across the region will bite into local apples at noon local time. Take a farm tour. Plant a bean seed with a preschooler. Coordinate a taste test of farm fresh foods in the school cafeteria.
Join us in tasting and teaching the fruits of the season, and spread the word about the delicious opportunities in farm to school in Nebraska.
Pictured: Kevin Reiman, superintendent of Auburn Public Schools; Marla Kurtenbach, program specialist at Nebraska Department of Education Nutrition Services; Justin Jones, president and co-owner of Lone Tree Foods; Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts; Sarah Smith, Center for Rural Affairs; Janice Reynolds, food service manager at Litchfield Public Schools; Donna Handley, program specialist at Nebraska Department of Education Nutrition Services; Beth Bruck-Upton, director of health and wellness, Midwest Dairy. | Photo courtesy of Gov. Pete Ricketts' office