Caption: Pellston Farmers Market organizer Mary Rapin
School welcomes new food service director, FoodCorps program, with Sept. 5 open house
When Sherry Sedore, Pellston Public Schools’ new food service director, rings the lunch bell next week during the first day of the 2017-18 school year, she’ll have an important new ally by her side. This is Pellston’s first year as a FoodCorps service site, so her staff and students will benefit from the presence of this AmeriCorps program dedicated to “creating a future in which every school is a healthy school, and every child is well-nourished and ready to learn.”
FoodCorps Service member Lindsay Hall, who will also serve for a second year at Boyne Falls Public School, will work collaboratively with Sedore, as well as teachers, staff and parents to introduce locally sourced produce in the school cafeteria and food-based lessons into the curriculum.
Sedore grew up on a farm and has worked in food service for 20 years. “I’m excited to be here in Pellston and excited for FoodCorps because I think Lindsay is going to bring knowledge to the table that kids aren’t aware of, so they can realize how good fruits and vegetables are,” she said. “When you eat well, your future health will be better and that’s what I’d like to see for these kids.”
Pellston Public Schools will welcome Sedore, and celebrate the collaboration with FoodCorps, at an open house on Tuesday, Sept. 5, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 172 Park St. in Pellston. The Pellston Farmers Market, which re-launched earlier this year after a three-year hiatus, will hold a pop-up market at the open house. Vendors will sell vegetables, flowers, bread, eggs and more.
The farmers market, organized by Mary Rapin of Bliss Gardens Farm and Community Kitchen, will begin accepting EBT/SNAP benefits at the open house, thanks to CharEm United Way, which has stepped in to make SNAP a reality in Pellston. The farmers market will also accept Project Fresh, a program that provides low-income, nutritionally-at-risk WIC participants with fresh, locally grown and unprepared fruits and vegetables from authorized farmers, farmers markets and roadside stands throughout Michigan. That’s vital for this northern Michigan community which experiences a high rate of food insecurity and joblessness. According to the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, “In the Pellston (zipcode 49676) population, 22.4% of households participate in SNAP. For comparison, in the state of Michigan the percentage is 16.7 and in Petoskey (zipcode 49770) the percentage is 13.1.” Also, the Free/Reduced Lunch count for 2016-17 was more than half the students in Pellston, at 56%, which makes it eligible for support from FoodCorps.
“The farmers at the market are happy to serve the whole Pellston community,” said Rapin. “We want to increase food access to everyone who lives here. The high proportion of food insecurity in the area makes the farmers market critical for those who receive Project Fresh and SNAP benefits, and for anyone who wants high-quality, local produce.”
Guests at the Sept. 5 open house will enjoy a tasting of September’s “Harvest of the Month,” Sedore’s cauliflower recipe, which students can vote on whether they “tried it”, “liked it” or “loved it”. Guests will also meet Jennifer Schaap, the local food policy specialist at the Groundwork Center—the host organization for FoodCorps in Pellston. Based in Traverse City, Groundwork recently expanded its food and farming work into Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties to collaborate with the Local Food Alliance and expand the “Northern Farms Foodshed”. Groundwork’s motto is to “protect what you love about northern Michigan” including our farms and local food, our environment and our thriving communities.
“Groundwork’s farm to school program has been making strides in the Grand Traverse area for 15 years,” said Schaap. “With that experience, we’re poised and ready to expand this programming into Pellston, where the community has shown excitement for fresh, local foods. With the re-established farmers market and the expertise of FoodCorps, we are well positioned to foster a culture of health and excitement around good-tasting, local, fresh fruits, vegetables and farm products.”