ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota students celebrate farm to school grant

HERON LAKE, Minn. -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has declared October as Farm to School Month in correspondence with federal recognition of Farm to School Month. Farm to School programs connect communities by bringing farm-fresh food options to ar...

2058189+Farm Story School RGB.jpg

HERON LAKE, Minn. - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has declared October as Farm to School Month in correspondence with federal recognition of Farm to School Month. Farm to School programs connect communities by bringing farm-fresh food options to area schools, and provide a win-win scenario for both sides of the lunch table.

Recently, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, along with Assistant Commissioner Santo Cruz, visited Heron Lake-Okabena Elementary School in honor of the school being chosen for a Farm to School Grant to renovate the school’s food services.

Ashley Bress, who administers the grant program, said the school was one of several projects chosen after review of the school’s application. Diana Madsen, coordinator of the Statewide Health Improvement Program for Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles counties, worked with Heron Lake to apply for a grant to remodel the school’s food service line.

The area now has portable hot and cold storage units that are placed lower to allow the elementary students access to be able to serve themselves fruits and vegetables, as well as see what they’re receiving on the hot food line.

The grant awarded the school $23,099 from the Department of Agriculture to remodel the kitchen. However, the school would have to provide matching funds. Blue Cross and Blue Shield stepped in to provide the school’s matching $23,099 to see the project completed.

ADVERTISEMENT

District 22 Sen. Bill Weber attended the event Friday and expressed how important the Farm to School program and grant funding is to both schools and farmers.

“It’s certainly very important. Number one, if you look at the means of the school and some of the problems that have arisen as a result of funding issues in the past, having the extra money to do these types of things to make the food service line more accessible ... to our little people - as well as to give them the opportunity to pick and choose between the expanded amount of fresh fruits and vegetables - it would be hard for them to accomplish without a grant program,” Weber said.

“This was really designed to provide additional markets for the farm product and provides a good nutritional result for our school children as well,” he added. “We’re in corn and soybean country, so actually the development of more of the vegetable crops and the garden produce is actually something that has happened more in recent years. But certainly this opportunity helps people in that market and does allow an outlet for that product.”

Madsen also noted the importance of the availability for funding to schools across the state to improve healthy food offerings to students.

“It’s critical,” Madsen said. “A lot of times, this type of work wouldn’t happen without the support of grants. With Blue Cross Blue Shield covering the school’s portion, it is phenomenal because the school wouldn’t be able to put those kinds of funds forward.”

“It allows us to make positive changes,” Heron Lake-Okabena Principal Paul Bang commented.”We could have gotten by with the other (lunch line). But this allows us to make improvements, and it’s good for these guys (students). I think it’s important.

The students also seemed to be pleased with the new lunch line.

“I love it that we can grab our own food and we get the best foods ever,” third-grader Junior Fuentes said.

Related Topics: FOOD
What To Read Next
Up to 50% less nitrates leave fields when ‘controlled drainage’ is used with drain tile
In a new guide for Minnesota farmers, Farmers Legal Action Group attorneys explain the potential risks posed by carbon sequestration contracts.
Students at the college in Wahpeton, North Dakota, will be able to get two-year applied science degrees in precision agronomy and precision agriculture technician starting in the fall of 2023.
Researchers with North Dakota State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working to see if a particular variety of Lewis flax has the potential to be a useful crop.