October is National Farm to School Month | Oct. 5, 2011
Did you know Idaho exports more than 50 percent of its wheat crop and more than 86 percent of its lentils? The Idaho Farm to School Program works toward having Idaho grown food served to those participating in Idaho Child Nutrition Programs – The School Lunch and Child and Adult Care Food Programs.
The state of Idaho may be the Gem State but, astoundingly, if all Idahoans had to consume all products produced within the state, every day each resident would need to eat or drink 195 slices of bread, 50 potatoes, one pound of cheese, 41 glasses of milk, one hamburger, one 8-ounce steak, three onions and two cups of beans.
What is Idaho’s top commodity – surprise, it’s milk! All school age children participating in the National School Lunch Program are offered milk with their meals. But what about some of the other top commodities in Idaho? This includes potatoes, wheat, barley, onions, trout, dry beans, apples, eggs, corn and many others.
The Farm to School program has a goal to increase the consumption of local foods for our children. This includes a focus on teaching children the path of food from farm to fork and instilling healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Schools with Farm to School programs report increased meal participation and reduced waste by the students.
How do Idaho schools measure up in the Farm to School Movement? Idaho is a progressive state and has already implemented more stringent nutrition standards for school meals than are required by the USDA. Defining the success of the Farm to School movement in Idaho proves to be more challenging. However, there are some shining stars.
The Coeur d'Alene School District serves local foods year-round such as apples, potatoes, dairy and trout. They also serve seasonal local foods like corn, carrots, peaches, pears, beans, lettuce and melons. They have farmers grow and deliver directly to their school.
The Caldwell School District in Caldwell actively sources local produce for the school lunch program. The energetic food service director goes directly to the orchard when what she needs is not available conventionally.
In Moscow, the Palouse School of Expeditionary Learning (PPSEL), a local charter school, is pioneering a new approach to a healthier school lunch by entering into a contract with a local commercial kitchen owner who will prepare unprocessed daily lunches out of fresh and local foods with a strong Farm to School emphasis. By meeting all of the requirements of the USDA and state of Idaho, PPSEL will ensure every eligible child will still receive a free or reduced price lunch.
Find out what you can do to celebrate National Farm to School Month by going to www.farmtoschoolmonth.org and discover ways to get involved with your local school district.