Spotlight on Farm-to-School: Petoskey Public Schools
We had the opportunity to speak with Beth Kavanaugh, the food service director of Petoskey Public Schools, about the district’s participation in the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan Kids & Farms matching grant program, that makes it easier for districts to purchase farm fresh produce The district first implemented 10 Cents a Meal in 2015. Beth said that she credits the program with helping the district increase meal participation and to minimize food waste. The students enjoy more common types of produce like berries, plums, pears, carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, and cucumbers, but many also favor pea pods and purple cauliflower. Beth said that while students may be hesitant to try a new dish, once they do, they often ask for seconds. She admits that farm-to-school success does not happen overnight and emphasizes the importance of monitoring what types of produce the students prefer when trying to increase the amount of produce purchased from local farmers.
With the help of trained volunteers and cafeteria staff, Beth has implemented “Try it Tuesday” and “Cooking with Chef Beth.” These activities are a hit with students and encourages them to try new recipes while also including them in the menu planning process. “Try it Tuesday” runs in nearly 40 elementary classrooms on the second Tuesday of each month. Students are offered a fruit and a vegetable recipe they may have never tried before, prepared by the food service department. Trained volunteers (kitchen staff, board members, parent volunteers and teachers) receive a script that includes health benefits along with growing and harvesting information about the fruit or vegetable to share with the students. In addition to the script, farm photos are displayed to the students to spark their interest. They especially enjoy the activity when farmers themselves visit the classroom and conduct the “Try it Tuesday” session. Students interact by asking questions and are shown a short video regarding the fruit or vegetable. This adds an additional learning piece to “Try it Tuesday” and allows the students to gain a better understanding of why fresh locally, grown produce is best.
Before sampling the recipe, all students must agree to follow three rules:
- Don’t Yuck My Yum!
- Take a “No Thank You Bite”.
- Everyone must try the recipe at the same time.
The students then vote if they “loved it, liked it or tried it”. Based on the results, the fresh fruit or vegetable recipe is implemented into the menu. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this program evolved into an at-home experience. Students are sent home with a ‘Harvest of the Month flyer, recipes, and the main fruit or vegetable ingredient so families are able to for families to make and sample items at home. Students love the family time in the kitchen and being able to share the experience with their parents and siblings.
In conjunction with meals served to children during the summer, she also hosts “Cooking with Chef Beth” once a month. This popular program gives children the opportunity to participate in an educational hands-on food experience which involves purchasing items from the Local Farm Market. They follow recipes and make their own meal. They love being able to “play” with food items before they create their meal. Most of the produce comes from local farmers and the children are encouraged to ask the farmers questions and sample fruits and vegetables before they are purchased.
Beth appreciates that the 10 Cents a Meal program allows students to receive the freshest and most nutritionally sound products available and emphasizes the importance that encouraging these healthy eating behaviors will have on students beyond their time in the cafeteria. She also appreciates the continuation of support she receives from farmers, the district, students, parents and food groups like Groundwork Center and the Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan that allows Petoskey Public Schools to purchase locally grown foods and participate in Farm-to-School.
If your district is interested in participating in the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms and would like more information, visit tencentsmichigan.org
The 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms grant application is open for a second round of grants for the current 2021 funding year (which runs through September 30, 2021.) Grants will be awarded by the Michigan Department of Education until the funds are expended, so the sooner applicants apply the better. Find out more, here