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Locally Grown, Fresh: ND Farm to School

Class will soon be back in session for kids across North Dakota and an ever growing number will find local foods in their school cafeterias. Credit: Steve Debenport.
Class will soon be back in session for kids across North Dakota and an ever growing number will find local foods in their school cafeterias. Credit: Steve Debenport.
August 10, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - As children across North Dakota prepare to soon head back to school, a growing number of students will find local offerings in the lunch line.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about one-fourth of the districts in the state report having Farm to School programs, but Sue Balcom, executive director with the Medina-based group FARRMS, says it likely goes well beyond that.

"Because North Dakota is such a great gardening state, we have a lot of folks that either donate produce or help with school gardens," Balcom says. "We think nearly all of them are touched by Farm to School at least in one way or the other."

The USDA is completing a new survey this year, but the most recent report showed 46 North Dakota districts representing more than 140 individual schools are bringing the farm to school.

Balcom notes with the lack of light processing facilities in North Dakota, most of the local produce that goes to schools ends up on the salad bar.

"The kids love cucumbers," she says. "So, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and watermelon. Also most of the schools usually do a sweet corn day, because that's a very popular vegetable in the fall."

Balcom says in addition to establishing healthy eating habits by introducing these local foods and gardening to children, they also hope to grow some future North Dakota farmers.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND