Students learn a mouthful in Farm to School (slideshow)

Sunrise River Elementary students learned where the food on their school lunch trays really comes from thanks to Farm to School Month, which was celebrated with two live chickens and a tractor display on Friday, Sept. 28.

(Photos above by Jon Tatting)

Food Service staffer Pam Connolly noted this is the school’s third year with the Farm to School program, and it’s proven to be a hit among fellow staff and families who like the idea of encouraging kids to take an interest in the food they eat.

The program emphasizes locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with nutritional fun fact activities. Did you know that Oklahoma is home to the biggest tomato that weighed 7 lbs. 12 oz. in 1989? “I tell kids it’s like the size of a baby,” smiled Connolly.

At lunchtime on Friday, Connolly said the apples at school come from a farm in McGregor, Minn., where Robin Thielbar also supplies eggs to the school district for baking. Thielbar also brought the two live chickens that students got to see and touch.

Brussel sprouts and squash were made available at lunchtime, too, and students were encouraged to give them a try. Davey Jones, of Hinckley, provided these veggie treats.

Aside from the Farm to School event, Connolly said changes at the national level now require school districts to offer a half-cup of fruit or a three-fourths serving of vegetables and whole wheat bread for school lunch. At least one local business, Dominos Pizza, has adjusted and now uses a whole wheat crust when making its pizzas for Sunrise River School, explained Connolly, noting students are treated to Dominos once a month.

Soft shell taco shells are made with whole wheat, too, she said.

Scott Papke is the district manager for Taher, Inc., a Minnetonka-based food service company that contracts with North Branch and other school districts for school lunch management services. He works closely with his food service staff including Don Kivimaki, the Food Service director for North Branch Schools.

With the Farm to School program, Papke noted, “We bring in the live chickens, work with local farmers and teach kids what it’s all about — where the food that’s on their tray comes from.”

He added, “We help schools manage the national school lunch program. We are constantly reinventing school lunch.”

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