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Letter: Farm to School movements feeds kids, boost local economy

To the editor:

When I was eating school lunch in the 1970s, there were just two days looked forward to: spaghetti day and pizza day. The mystery-meat hamburgers and overcooked vegetables, and hard, cold mashed potatoes were just bad.

My children have been eating school lunch for the past decade, and I've been impressed with the daily offerings of fresh vegetables and fruits and the improved quality and nutritional value of the food.

But the Farm to School "movement" really excites me. The idea is simple — link local farmers to schools and include the food they raise on lunch trays, salad bars and in snacks.

What if even 10 percent of the food our kids ate a school came from local farms? It would be a win, win, win — for kids, for farmers and for communities. While the idea is simple, I do understand that the implementation is more complicated.

That's a long story tied to the many parameters that schools have to follow. Yet schools across the country are finding ways to do this, including 51 percent of schools in Minnesota!

The organization I work for helped launch farmer-lunch lady speed-dating a number of years ago to connect farmers and food service professionals — and to provide guidance on developing successful programs. We've also worked on farm to early care efforts, getting our youngest kids introduced to healthy, local foods. I am grateful to the parents, farmers, nutrition staff, school administrators, students, policymakers and others involved in strengthening our local economies and communities through Farm to School efforts. If you want to learn more about Farm to School or Farm to Early Care, or to find ways you can get involved, I've included a few resources below:

Renewing the Countryside: www.renewingthecountryside.org/farm_to_school Minnesota Extension Service: extension.umn.edu/school-and-child-care-nutrition/farm-school National Farm to School Network: www.farmtoschool.org/our-work/farm-to-school-month

Jan Joannides, Zumbro Falls resident

Jan Joannides is director of Renewing the Countryside

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