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MN Farm to School: Local Foods Land in Lunch Lines

More than 200 districts in the state take part in Farm to School programs. Credit: Steve Debenport.
More than 200 districts in the state take part in Farm to School programs. Credit: Steve Debenport.
August 10, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - School children across Minnesota will be returning to class in just a few weeks, and once again this year they'll find more local foods when going through the lunch line. Erin McKee VanSlooten, a senior program associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, says every year the institute has tracked the data for Farm to School, the number of districts taking part has gone up.

"The most recent information we have from the USDA show there are 208 districts in Minnesota participating," she says. "Which means there are 609,000 kids that are getting local food from different districts across the state."

VanSlooten says that has a significant impact on the local economy, with more than $12 million from school meal budgets now going to Minnesota farmers.

Farm to School Month will be celebrated nationwide in October. VanSlooten says that will include an event Oct. 22, in which some districts in Minnesota and other Midwest states will serve a coordinated lunch tray.

"They will feature a local chicken product, a local apple and a vegetable of their choice," she says. "In Minnesota last year we did potatoes, but we might do something else this year and then, they'll also use a local grain product."

More details on the Oct. 22 Food Day will be shared Wednesday as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy holds an online meeting with school food service staff and state agency personnel from across the Midwest.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN