Because Midwest Food Connection educators bring lessons about healthy food choices into school classrooms, working with food service providers in schools is a natural connection for us. This fall, we have begun an exciting collaboration with Minneapolis Public Schools’ Farm-to-School program. Our educators incorporate foods featured in Farm-to-School initiatives like True Food Taste Tests and MN Thursdays into our lessons that students will then be able to find in their lunchrooms. We have researched locally sourced ingredients used in the cafeterias that we can also use in our lessons as teaching aids, local farm-to-school producers we can feature, and ways we can highlight projects like True Food Taste Tests and MN Thursdays. We also encourage students to try unfamiliar foods in the lunchroom and choose healthy options at the salad bar, if their school has one. In these ways, we encourage kids to make connections with the foods served in their lunchrooms and where they come from, and to make healthful food choices.
This collaboration fit especially well with our early fall series of lessons, Locally Grown. Showing kids locally grown potatoes alongside pictures of the MN farmers who grew the potatoes for the potato salad they’d see in the cafeteria that day was a natural fit with our Eat Local lesson. We showed the school lunch calendar for the month, which most students were familiar with, and told them to look for the pink tractor to find foods that were produced locally. We featured MN Thursday menus, showing students a poster featuring a large photo of the all-local meal and describing the farms where each ingredient came from. We were even able to feature a pre-tasting of an apple-kale salad served in MPS cafeterias as part of an all-local meal for Food Day on October 22. Our educators also love to participate in True Food Taste Tests when we can, handing out samples to kids in the lunchroom as another “food connection” for students, as they taste test new foods.
We are excited to continue our collaboration with the MPS Culinary and Nutrition Services Department throughout the school year, featuring Farm-to-School initiatives and reaching out to schools where MFC has not previously taught.