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Field fresh foods

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Local farm products used more frequently in RE-8 schools

By Gene Sears

Colorado students are getting more of a taste of locally grown foods at the lunch table, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
    That’s because the Colorado Farm-to-School program is increasing the number of school districts participating in its programs. Farm-to-school in Colorado has grown from 22 public school districts in 2010 to 64 public school districts in 2012.
    The aim of the farm-to-school program is to increase the use of local farm and ranch products in school foodservice programs to improve child nutrition and strengthen local and regional agricultural economies.
    “In light of the increased requirements of fruits and vegetables in school meals, the work of the task force is very valuable and timely,” said Jane Brand, director, Office of School Nutrition at CDE and task force member. “I’m very proud of the work the task force has accomplished and look forward to continuing to support school district participation.”
    It’s not a new idea in Fort Lupton, where staff received training last year in preparing more menu items from scratch. A Cook for America team from LiveWell Colorado dispatched to the district, offering training on fresh produce cooking, preparation and vegetable-based sauces as healthy alternatives.
    The team came at the request of district Food Service Coordinator Mindi Wolf, who trained with them three years prior. Part of the district’s approach to healthier alternatives was partnering with local growers and distributors to purchase fresh produce.
    The Farm To School task force continues that approach, offering resources and recommendations to help connect other Colorado schools with locally produced food.
    “Since its inception, the task force has been active in identifying, pursuing, and implementing opportunities to grow farm-to-school all across the state of Colorado,” said Jeremy West, Greeley-Evans Weld County School District nutrition service director and chair of the task force. “Colorado is an emerging leader in farm-to-school efforts, the task force is providing resources to make it easier for schools to get involved and buy local foods.”
    Aiding local efforts, the Weld RE-8 District received a $45,000 planning grant to strengthen contacts and agreements with local farms and expand the pool of producers interested in selling to the district. In addition, funds will be used to improve a kitchen facility so the district can prepare, store and serve local fresh produce.

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at
gsears@metrowestnewspapers.com.