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MN Farm To School: A Growing Success Story

March 29, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - Small and mid-size farmers, whose products have been largely absent from America's lunch trays, are now offering Minnesota children fresh, less-processed choices, and a chance to learn where their food is grown. It's called the Farm-To-School program, and it is 15 months old.

JoAnne Berkenkamp, program director for local foods at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says the program has taken off.

"I have to say, when you look at the number of participating school districts more-than doubling, I think that tells you there's real interest here."

A recent survey showed nearly 100 Minnesota school districts participating in the program, serving more than half-a-million school children across the state. Three-quarters of those school districts expect to expand their Farm-To-School activities in the upcoming year.

Berkenkamp says the most popular locally grown food item is the apple, but that's far from the only locally grown food item school children are being served.

"Other common items include things like potatoes, peppers, winter squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes."

Both the local school districts and local farmers are rallying behind the program, because they see the potential to help our smaller farmers stay on the land, producing healthy foods. Farm-To-School is popular on the farm and in the schools, according to Berkenkamp.

"Schools are having a good experience with this, they're getting good feedback from their students and from the parents, and they want to see this grow and be successful."

Berkenkamp says the growth potential for the Farm-To-School program is enormous, because it can work in different kinds of environments and with different kinds of farmers.

More information is available at www.iatp.org and www.mnsna.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - MN