Farm Program Provides Local Produce to Schools

Lunches at some schools in the region may get a makeover – one that includes healthy, locally grown produce and helps put money back into the local economy.

To help connect school officials with produce farmers, distributors and others who may want to supply districts with fresh produce, a Farm To School Regional Workshop will be held April 29, 2014, at Hilton Garden Inn in Perrysburg. The day-long workshop will include a variety of sessions, such as how to incorporate hands-on education for students, meal planning and food safety.

“One of the reasons we want to have this workshop in northwest Ohio is because there’s been a lot of interest, but people just don’t know how to connect the dots,” said Jan Meyer, Creating Healthy Communities Program consultant for the Ohio Department of Health’s Northwest District.

“That’s the significant road block: Where do I start?”

There are some examples of Farm to School programs under way in northwest Ohio.

In 2013, ProMedica helped Fremont City Schools in Sandusky County, Ohio, successfully apply for a Farm To School planning grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than 60% of Sandusky County students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and 14% are obese. The grant will benefit 4,236 students and expand initiatives in all of the district’s nine schools, including revising menus to include locally grown food and educating families about local food and farming.

Improving access to nutritious food is part of ProMedica’s Come to the Table initiative to end hunger and address it as a health issue nationwide. Stephanie Cihon, ProMedica’s corporate director of grants, advocacy and community relations, will give a presentation about the initiative at the workshop.

Farm to School definitely is about more than getting local food, Meyer said. The program provides classroom education to students about where food comes from – as in, before the store – and how it is produced.

At Fremont City Schools, for example, the district wants to have farmers, other growers, chefs, and cooks teach students.

The Tuesday, April 29 workshop will be held from from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, 6165 Levis Commons Blvd., Perrysburg. The workshop’s $30 registration fee includes a continental breakfast, lunch and resource materials. For more information and to register, please go to farmtoschool.osu.edu/events/workshops/.

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