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More Minnesota Schools are Serving Up Locally Grown Food

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September 1, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gov. Dayton has declared September "Farm to School Month" in Minnesota. The Farm to School initiative is a program of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

JoAnne Berkenkamp, AITP program director for local foods, says one goal is to link schools with farmers to get more locally grown food onto students' lunch trays - but there are others, too.

"The intention is really several-fold. One is to connect kids with healthy, minimally processed, fresh food choices. Another is to educate them about how and where their food is grown. And another is to really help build markets for our small- and mid-sized farmers."

Positive response from growers and school officials has led to major growth for the program, which had only 10 districts involved in 2006, Berkenkamp says.

"When the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy conducted our last annual survey, we found that about 123 school districts, serving more than half of the K-12 population in Minnesota, are now engaged in Farm to School."

Berkenkamp says the growth is spurred by a heightened interest in fresh foods and people wanting to know where their food is coming from.

"You also see in school environments increasing concern about child obesity, which has grown very rapidly in recent decades, and an increasing concern from parents about what their children are eating."

Berkenkamp says most school districts start out with apples and then expand from there, adding everything from carrots and corn to broccoli and bison.

More information on the program is available at www.farm2schoolmn.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN