Every October schools, farms, and communities across the country celebrate Farm to School Month, and here at The Good Acre, we decided to celebrate with a tour of school cafeterias all across the Twin Cities metro.
The first school we visited was Roseville Area Middle School for Minnesota Thursday! MN Thursdays are a fun opportunity for a school to feature an entirely locally sourced menu for the day, and this MN Thursday was a tasty one! It was mega meatball day- made with local grass-fed beef from Thousand Hills Farm, atop of linguine noodles from Dakota Growers Pasta. Last, but certainly not least, Parmesan Roasted Broccoli from Sogn Valley Farm rounded out the meal. The meatballs were made from scratch and hand-rolled by nutrition service staff which is quite a feat, considering that they serve just over 600 a day for lunch at Roseville Area Middle School! As for the broccoli, an ingredient which we helped the school procure, it was roasted to perfection in a Rationale combi oven — a piece of equipment that has the capability to roast multiple sheet trays of broccoli in 30 minutes or less. Staffers from the Roseville Nutrition Services Department have attended culinary training at The Good Acre in the past, so it was especially rewarding to sit down for lunch and enjoy a scratch-made meal prepared by their hardworking staff. Well done Roseville!
The second stop on the tour was Fridley High School, where we were accompanied by Dave Frederickson, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, State Senator Carolyn Laine, and Bill Jacobson of Pine Tree Apple Orchard among others. We were there on Great Lakes Apple Crunch Day, a celebratory event that supports farm to cafeteria efforts across the upper Midwest. On the menu that day was a pulled turkey sandwich roasted in their snazzy new Rationale combi oven, Honey Sriracha Delicata Squash from Seeds Farm, and of course apples from Pine Tree Orchard! Fridley was able to outfit their kitchen with their new Rational combi oven and a top of the line Robot-Coupe R 602V Series F food processor thanks to an AGRI Farm to School Grant, which you can read more about here. Both pieces of equipment help make implementing local produce onto the lunch line much more efficient, a key factor in building a sustainable Farm to School program. Also, big shout out to Fridley HS Kitchen Manager, Sue Baker, and her team for all the amazing work they are doing in getting great food out on the lunch line!
Our third stop was lunch at Plymouth Middle School with Katie Wahl who is the Child Nutrition Coordinator for Robbinsdale Area Schools. We enjoyed Garlic Cheese Bread, Roasted Honey Butter Carrots, and Veggies with Housemade Hummus. Both the carrots and the hummus were prepped using Robbinsdale’s new Robot-Coupe R 602V Series E, it slices, shreds, emulsifies, and more. It’s a real workhorse in the kitchen and can do prep work in a fraction of the time that it would take to do it manually. Robbinsdale was one of the first school districts that took part in our culinary training program, starting with us back in 2016. Roasted Honey Butter Carrots is also one of the first Farm to School recipes that we ever developed, glad to see that classic is still a hit with the kids! The rainbow carrots that were on the menu we helped to source from HAFA and Xiong Family Farm.
The last stop on our Farm to School Month journey Grainwood Elementary in the Prior Lake Savage Area School District. We were invited by the Nutrition Service Director to join in as part of their “Legislator to Lunch Day.” Joining us was a staff member from Senator Amy Klobachar’s office — a great opportunity for someone representing Minnesota’s Legislative office to take part in the local Farm to School movement. On the menu that day was a marinated Asian Kale Salad, featuring curly green kale from Seeds Farm. In addition to that, nutrition staff was serving up a scratch-made chicken wild rice soup which was delicious. In addition to implementing Farm to School in their lunchroom, Grainwood has a Junior Naturalist program which is designed to promote environmental stewardship and empower students. The Junior Naturalists gave us a tour of their schoolyard garden and outdoor classroom and shared with us how much they enjoy learning about how their food grows. We hope the Junior Naturalists can book a visit The Good Acre for a food hub field trip soon!
We work with almost 20 school districts selling locally grown produce through our wholesale program but, as we’ve learned, a sustainable farm to school program needs more than just great vegetables. It takes dedicated and passionate people to create a system and a plan to build the capacity of their nutrition services teams to be able to procure and prepare local foods. The school district leaders we dined with for farm to school month are just a few of the folks that are leading the charge to build a better food system that supports local farmers and puts healthy and delicious items on cafeteria lunch lines in our communities. Thanks to all for having us over for lunch!
Want to support the work we’re doing to help schools build sustainable farm to school programs? Help us reach our Give to the Max Day goal over at givemn.org/thegoodacre.