Beaver Island School lunch

Celebrating Farm to School Month in Michigan

October 14, 2021 | |

First published in the Traverse City Record-Eagle

Above photo: Local food at Beaver Island Community School

Imagine this: Your children come home from school to tell you about the kale flowers they ate in the school garden today with Miss Hope, and then ask if your family can have kale for dinner, or maybe broccoli because they learned it’s in the same family as kale. As far-fetched as this sounds, stories like this are what we at Groundwork hear from FoodCorps service members that serve in classrooms, gardens, and cafeterias each week. When a 6th grader said, “You should bring a whole bin of kale flowers next time,” what that student doesn’t know is this might be a pivotal moment in their journey of personal health.

When food discovery happens, we know that a student is more likely to select the vegetable or fruit in the cafeteria. According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “repeated exposure to the taste of unfamiliar foods is a promising strategy for promoting liking of previously rejected foods in children.” A study by Andrea Maier, of the University of Burgundy, found: “Toddlers can be made to like a new food by introducing it 5–10 times. Kids aged 3–4 may need to try it 15 times.” 

At Groundwork, we celebrate local food all year, but especially in October, since it’s harvest time and because October is National Farm to School Month. The Farm to School movement began in the late 1990s when a handful of schools across the country responded to the rising levels of processed food in cafeterias. Then came the support of the National Farm to School Network to expand the movement. FoodCorps’ critical hands-on support brings the movement to life, engaging students and school staff.

There are many ways to participate in farm to school. For example, Pellston Public Schools is inviting local farmers to come in for lunch with students, and the school has organized field trips to farms. Teachers can register classrooms for the Great Lakes Apple Crunch Day, October 14, or any day in October. Student councils or other school clubs can conduct an apple tasting with elementary students and set up a voting system—dot-sticker voting on a poster with Tried It /Liked It/Loved It columns, or a simple comparison of two to three varieties of local apples. Parents can participate in school garden maintenance, watering/weeding in the summer, donating tools. No school garden? Help build one — start small with a couple of raised beds, and invite a few food champions—teachers, parents, and student leaders.

These activities are important if we want students to build healthy habits that increase nutrition while also supporting our neighboring farms, and in turn, our local food economy. Farm to school activities are a perfect complement to the policy work being done to reimburse schools for purchasing Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes through 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms, as well as efforts to increase school meal quality across the Char-Em ISD through FoodCorps service. Plus, it’s fun!

For more ideas, visit: https://www.farmtoschool.org/our-work/farm-to-school-month.

Jen Schaap, Local Food Policy Specialist

Jen Schaap, Local Food Policy Specialist on Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities Food and Farming team, supervises FoodCorps service members and partners with various community partners out of Groundwork’s Petoskey office to move farm to school activities forward in the region that the Char-Em Intermediate School District covers.

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