A growing number of school are looking beyond fruits and vegetables and including healthy, regionally grown grains and legumes in their farm to school programs. A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy explores the opportunities and challenges for sourcing grains and legumes on a larger scale.
I had the opportunity to interview food service staff, vendors and their partners as a part of the case studies included in the report. The passion and dedicated of all of the partners involved in implementing farm to school programs was inspiring – each person I interviewed was clearly committed to making local purchasing work for the schools, the farmers and the students. I was also struck by the complexity of changing eating habits. Each of the profiled schools is a leader in the field – implementing changes in their school food service that swim against the tide of a food culture that places a premium on convenience, in every sense of the word. I found it particularly satisfying to hear the story of places like Grand Rapids Michigan, where the food service director demonstrated that she had been paying a premium for canned beans from a national distributor when she switched to dry beans, grown on local farms. And I was inspired by the creativity of the schools in changing the students’ minds about what constitutes good food. You can read a summary and download the individual case studies here.