A Growing Trend: Connecting Students to Farm-fresh Produce
“Just like it’s important to teach students where they come from, we also need to teach them where their food comes from,” said Superintendent Tim Lutz of Kelliher School District. It’s this belief that has led Kelliher School District to be a leader in Farm to School initiatives in Minnesota, in addition to earning the National Healthy Schools Silver Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2016.
For the past five years, Kelliher students have taken an active role in the districts’ garden program. Teachers discuss with students what they want to plant and find ways to incorporate the garden into their lesson plans. In the fall, students help to harvest beets, corn, potatoes and squash, which in addition to providing a hands-on nutrition lesson, also contribute the cafeteria’s salad bar offerings. “We sometimes convert our fruit and vegetable bar into a baked potato bar with potatoes from the garden,” said Tim.
The school garden pilot has been so well received by students and staff that Tim envisions it becoming a permanent fixture for years to come. More recently, teachers have empowered students to take a leadership role in planning for the next year's garden. Their efforts have increased the capacity of the garden by inviting community members to "adopt a raised bed," which also contributes to the garden’s sustainability.
To supplement what’s grown in the garden, Kelliher’s food service director is always looking for other ways to source ingredients locally. In recent years, she’s purchased corn on the cob, wild rice, apples, and potatoes from nearby farms ‒ to name a few. Kelliher plans to continue to expand its Farm to School program, according to Tim. “Incorporating gardening and Farm to School is one of our most successful ways of educating our students about healthy diets.”