Minnesota School District Uses Farm to School to Introduce Students to New Produce

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Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) serve 22,000 lunches to the students at their 70 schools every day. Thanks to their district-wide Farm to School program, students are exposed to many types of produce in each meal. As a result, MPS is paving the way for the next generation of healthy eaters with a taste for the finer vegetables in life.

Beginning in 2013, MPS took small steps to begin a farm to school program. Working with just a couple farms, they made one-off purchases here and there. During the 2018-2019 school year, they worked with 13 small to mid-size farms and farm cooperatives to source 40 different varieties of produce. That equates to 145,000 pounds of local produce.

[Our program] has grown to a lot more farms, a wider variety of items and we’re buying them more frequently and larger volumes. Our staff just understands that when we buy produce, we first look to see if we can buy it locally,” said Kate Seybold, Farm to School Coordinator at MPS.

In addition to supporting their local farmers, one of Seybold’s main goals of the program is to provide new foods for kids to try that they might not eat regularly.

“Rutabaga, parsnips, watermelon radishes…may not be things they’re eating at home a lot. The first time we serve it, they might not want to try it, but we try to build up that idea of being adventurous eaters in our lunch room and we also believe that continuous exposure is important. We keep serving it and maybe they’ll try it a couple times before they start to like it or build up the courage to try it, but we keep providing those opportunities to them,” said Seybold.

Some of the most popular foods in MPS cafeterias are “Beets and Sweets” (roasted sweet potatoes and beets), carrots and bright-pink beet hummus.

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Seybold says they’ve seen many positives come from their farm to school program, including more scratch cooking and increased revenue that’s able to be put back into it.

“We really now build our menus around our farm to school produce and try to think about how we can build menus that are seasonal,” said Seybold.

In addition to local produce, 35 of MPS have a school garden. Of those, 12 currently have a garden to cafeteria program where the school buys the produce from the garden and serves it in their lunch room. Kids can see the growth process from start to finish.

 “We really see farm to school as a win for our students. They’re getting really high-quality, fresh, nutritious good-tasting food. It’s also a big win for our farms and our local economy. We are a part of our community, and farm to school is a great way to support and be engaged in our community,” said Seybold.

Are you ready to grow your farm to school program into something greater? Contact your Cambro rep today to find the right solutions for your school.

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