Bancroft-Rosalie: Farm to School Capitalizes on School’s Rural Setting

March Madness was in full swing at Bancroft-Rosalie Community School this year. The school, located in Bancroft, Nebraska, participates in the Center’s pilot Farm to School program. Naturally, there was a Farm to School twist on their brand of March Madness.

Each year, kindergarten through 4th grade students choose their favorite breakfast menu item and invite guests to eat at school. This year’s competition was called “Pennies for Produce.”

Becky Wortman, Food Service Director at the school, said the promotion motivated the kids to save up for a special purchase of their favorite fruit. Each class made “deposits” to a penny jar in the lunchroom – voting for the fruit they most wanted for their “Madness” breakfast.

The classes enjoyed bringing the pennies to the kitchen and watching as the jars filled up. A chart on the wall showed each class’s progress throughout the month. One first grader commented, “We used teamwork to raise money.” A classmate agreed, “We needed to get rid of pennies anyway!”

Kitchen staff enjoyed the fun activity too. Parents learned more about the Farm to School effort when they attended breakfasts throughout March.

Bancroft-Rosalie was an early Farm to School supporter. Bancroft is about 12 miles from our hometown of Lyons. We have worked closely with Superintendent Dr. Jon Cerny and his food service team on setting goals and implementing them in the school cafeteria.

Concerns about seasonality and local procurement are common in Nebraska. The Bancroft-Rosalie school reached out to a local vegetable and fruit producer, D&V Produce, to find out how they could work together to bring seasonal produce to the school.

The partnership went well. Watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumbers will be back on the menu this year. Becky has also explored other ways to “go local,” connecting with local sources for eggs, honey, and milk.

Last December, Bancroft-Rosalie hosted a Farm to School Food Service Workshop. Attendees from 9 rural northeast Nebraska schools learned about local food procurement, implementing taste tests, and purchasing through wholesale distribution. Becky is implementing much of what she learned, including how to write local procurement bids with their food distributor to trigger a local foods purchase.

Bancroft-Rosalie is a great example of a rural school making the most of existing relationships. For example, D&V Produce had offered part-time jobs to students in the summer to help prepare fresh items for farmers markets. The next step of bringing this food into the cafeteria was a natural progression.

Students gained a lot from this relationship: acquiring new food-related skills and learning about growing food and working in local food systems. Who knows – these Farm to School activities may spur future entrepreneurs, creating a hands-on exercise in business development.