By Emily Freeman
Winter squash with Jamaican jerk seasoning. Steamed beets in an orange sauce. Root vegetables roasted with herbs and olive oil. A far cry from the tater tots of yore, these are some of the ways that winter vegetables are served in the Wayzata School District, where for the past three years the lunchroom menu has included produce, dairy, and meat sourced from area farms. The local items are marked as such on the cafeteria menu, and streaming videos in the classroom show students the food’s journey from growth to plate, helping them to understand where their lunch comes from. The incorporation of fresh and local food was an easy sell, according to Culinary Express Supervisor, Mary Anderson, with students and parents readily embracing the idea. Having grown up on a farm, Anderson understands the way the program’s benefits reach far beyond the school grounds, helping farmers and the Minnesota economy overall. She attributes the program’s success to years of hard work by a dedicated group of individuals and organizational partners, and takes little personal credit, in spite of her recent national recognition by the School Nutrition Association. She says simply: “It’s the right thing for us to be doing.” And she’s not alone in thinking so; across the state, school districts large and small, rural and urban, are doing the same thing. Interested in seeing fresh local food in your own district? Contact your school nutrition department, or check out the University of Minnesota’s Farm to School Toolkit (www.mn-farmtoschool.umn.edu).