School districts using more locally grown food
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Third-graders Paulina Urioste and Armond Marshall-Agnew enjoy locally grown apples during the school lunch last week at West Side Elementary School in Elkhorn. The apples for the five schools in the Elkhorn Area School District come from the Apple Barn in nearby Sugar Creek Township. Food service directors say they’d like to use more local foods on their menus, but regulations can be an obstacle. Terry Mayer/staff.
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — The beans, tomatoes and peas planted last spring and tended throughout the summer by students at Star Center Elementary School are now making an appearance on their plates in the lunchroom this fall.
Jennifer Laffin, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, got the idea for the Happy Harvesters garden project when she heard a news story about the Farm to School Initiative, a nationwide program that connects schools with growers in their area in order to bring more fresh, nutritious food into school kitchens while supporting local farmers. Because she couldn’t find a Farm to School program in Walworth County, she asked school administrators at the school if they’d be willing to let her start a garden.
The project was a group effort. School custodians dug out a garden plot on the side of the school. Local companies and organizations donated supplies or money for such things as seeds. Laffin and fellow teacher Terrie Mess collaborated on activities to get students involved in the project. Other teachers and parents volunteered to help students care for the plants.
Ellen Leasure remembers hearing of one school in northern Wisconsin that not only has a garden, but processes the harvest for its kitchens. That kind of project, she said, is impractical for districts the size of the Elkhorn Area School District, for which she is food services supervisor.
But Leasure supports local growers. She had purchased apples from an area orchard when she worked for the East Troy School District, and wanted to continue that practice in Elkhorn. So, she regularly orders apples from the Apple Barn in Sugar Creek Township for the five schools in the district — at a savings of about $8 per order over another vendor the district uses.
Read the full story in the e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, HERE.