Fortenberry Speaks to Students at Norris Public Schools - Congressman also joins Students for Celebration of Farm to School Month

Release Date: 



Sarah Smith, Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Farm to School Lead,, Phone: (307) 321-9766
or Elisha Smith,, Phone: (402) 687-2103 ext. 1007

Firth, Nebraska - Today Congressman Jeff Fortenberry joined the students of the Norris School District in Firth, Nebraska, speaking to an assembly of high students to talk about social studies, civics, and related topics and then joining intermediate school students for an apple tasting and other local, Nebraska food offerings in the Norris Intermediate lunchroom.

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to host Congressman Fortenberry and know that he supports strong small business practices and is a champion for children's nutrition,” Dr. John Skretta, Superintendent of the Norris School District. “We believe the Farm To School Act would help extend that support to reach many more schools whose food service programs and nutrition education impact would be enhanced through passage of this legislation.”
According to Sarah Smith of the Center for Rural Affairs, earlier this year, Representative Fortenberry (R-NE) joined Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in introducing the Farm to School Act of 2015 in both the U.S. House and Senate to strengthen and expand the scope of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant programs to assist more schools in developing Farm to School nutrition programs.
“Farm to School is a tremendous program that provides students the opportunity to experience locally grown and sustainable agricultural products as an important facet of a successful school food service program,” continued Dr. Skreta.  “We celebrate the presence of sustainable agricultural practices like those demonstrated by Prairieland Dairy and Union Orchards.”
Representative Fortenberry was able to join students for an apple tasting featuring a number of sweet and crunchy apple varieties from Union Orchard in Union, Nebraska in celebration of October being National Farm to School Month and, thanks to a proclamation by Governor Pete Ricketts in September, Nebraska Farm to School Month as well.
Other local and Nebraska food featured in the Norris lunchroom today and throughout the month of October include:
green beans from Mark Roh of Abie Vegetable People in Abie, Nebraska;
Mesculin salad blend, full of baby salad greens, also from Abie Vegetable People; and,
during the final week of October, fresh sweet potatoes grown by Robinette Farms in Martell, Nebraska.
Mel Maendele, Food Service Director for Norris School District and part of the Farm to School pilot program in Nebraska, came up with local produce options to feature at Norris during Farm to School Month. In addition to today’s celebration with Representative Fortenberry, Norris food service professionals have and will display a variety of apples, sweet potatoes and pumpkins throughout their schools to visually show the students the upcoming fall produce they will be able to try this month. Each week they also showcase the local produce with an educational slide show, as well as hands on lessons in several classrooms.
Maendele’s goal is to create a lasting impression on the students. Despite the $1.24 per meal food service budget per student, Norris School District is working hard to provide its students with healthy food ideas that they can take and share with their families.
“We are very appreciative of the resources, support and technical assistance provided by the Center for Rural Affairs to our school as a pilot program,” added Dr. Skretta. “We have been able to better network with and integrate local providers and to do so in a way that is highly appealing and exciting to our students, with greater freshness and variety in our foods than would otherwise be offered in a school food service program.”
“Representative Fortenberry’s participation in the apple tasting and other Farm to School celebrations today is a testament to his support for child nutrition, school lunch programs and growing Farm to School programs here in  Nebraska and beyond,” concluded Smith. “Moreover, his visit to Norris helps all of the ongoing efforts, by the Center for Rural Affairs and hundreds of schools and other organizations nationally, to build support for Farm to School programs and specifically for the Farm to School Act of 2015. We are deeply grateful for his support for these programs and his willingness to showcase Farm to School nutrition programs like the one at Norris Schools.”
For photos of Fortenberry’s visit to Norris School District today, visit:

For more information on Farm to School programs, Farm to School Month, or the national day of action for Farm to School on October 22nd, contact the Center for Rural Affairs or go to