Food and Nutrition Service Directors are in a unique position to support their local community and improve the health of children and adults through farm to school programs. Hear how some food service directors are picking their path for farm to school success.
Any farm to school program starts with a spark of interest. Hear from Fulton High School students and the Director of Food Services on how their Farm to Fulton High School program got started and what they like most about serving up locally grown foods.
Here is feedback from the Rock Bridge High School Kitchen Manager on how the farm to school program works for them, including the challenges and benefits of the program.
Thanks to OPAA! Food Management, children all over Missouri can bite into a fresh, juicy apple straight from a Missouri farm each fall. OPAA!, a food service management company, manages the school food service operations for 76 districts in Missouri. Their mission statement, “Make Their Day,” reflects the company’s desire for the school meal to be the highlight of a child’s day. OPAA! achieves this by using quality fresh food and local food when possible, to make the school food experience nutritious, fun and educational.
OPAA! started their farm to school journey with one product – apples. They formed a partnership with Rasa Orchards (pronounced ray-see) to supply six schools with fresh apples. Now, all OPAA! schools get their apples from Rasa, along with activities and education to excite the students and help them learn about local food. Students are able to sample six different varieties of apples from the time harvest starts until the season ends. Some schools have conducted taste tests and voted on their favorite apples. Others have had a farmer from Rasa Orchards visit the school to talk about what it takes to grow apples in Missouri. Linda Jones, director of development, cites the importance of this educational component saying, “I was surprised by how excited and interested students were. Students had a lot of questions for the farmer and went away with a better understanding of where apples come from or how they are grown.”
Apples will not be the only local food on the cafeteria trays of some students this fall. Tomatoes, onions, peppers, green beans, and squash will be provided by Fahrmeier Farms to OPAA’s western Missouri schools. OPAA! is also working with the University of Missouri Extension Food from the Farm program to provide kindergartners in the Kansas City area with local fruit and vegetable tastings three times a week.
Jones talks about providing local food in schools in terms of “building committment in the community,” adding that “providing local food in school meals creates a more stable market for farmers, which builds the local economic base and deepens relationships within the community.” She cites other benefits of using local food, including helping children become champions of their own choices, enhancing student health, and getting parents interested in healthy eating and local food.
OPAA’s commitment to using locally grown produce continues to grow. They are currently seeking additional farmers to work with in the hopes of getting more local produce into all of their schools.
For more information on OPAA! Food Management please contact Andy Condie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website, www.opaafood.com