During the month of October, students throughout Dexter Community Schools enjoyed locally grown apples and kale with smiles on their faces, and thumbs up to the sky. Here’s an article about the event compiled by our Farm to School Coordinator and the Food Service staff in Dexter Schools. . .
Dexter Schools’ Food and Nutrition purchased apples from Frosty Apple Orchard and Lesser Farms and Orchard, representing an expansion of their existing relationship with these two farms located in Dexter. In a partnership with the Dexter Wellness Coalition’s Farm to School Coordinator, Caitlin Joseph, Dexter Food and Nutrition also purchased kale from Goetz Farm in Riga, MI. The kale and apples were used together in kale smoothies that were given out as free samples in all 6 Dexter Community Schools from October 14-22 during lunch in the cafeterias. “The goal of the Kale Smoothie tastings was to introduce students to kale in a fun and palatable form,” says Caitlin Joseph. Students were asked to vote “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” after trying the kale smoothies, and overall, the students’ votes showed more positive reactions than negative.
Kale was also served on the lunch line at Mill Creek Middle School and Dexter High School, where students added it to their lunch trays as raw salads and kale chips.
“Working with local Dexter Orchards has been wonderful,” said Sara Simmerman, Food Service Director, explaining how a successful local farm to school relationship has worked for her department. “The apples from Lesser’s and Frosty Apple have always been high quality, the farmers delivered regularly to the schools, and they’ve been engaged with educating students directly about their products,” Simmerman added. Assistant Food Service Director, Margaret Faber, elaborated, “Local food purchasing is easier for us when farmers take the initiative to call us. Having a centralized location for viewing local foods available to us, though, would make farm to school purchasing more sustainable for schools in our area.”
The locally grown kale’s presence in Dexter Schools this month is part of Dexter Food and Nutrition’s ongoing partnership with the Dexter Wellness Coalition’s Farm to School Coordinator aimed at increasing awareness and accessibility of locally grown foods in Dexter schools. Successes in this effort represent a triple win for farmers, students, and the community. Farmers receive more money for their products when institutions purchase from them directly. And when school staff members promote the fact that local foods come from specific farms, those farmers benefit from increased personal connections in their community. The presence of locally grown foods in schools also increases the community’s awareness of and pride in their local agricultural industry. Students are able to develop healthier eating habits from an increased exposure to a greater variety of fresh foods. And many food service departments engaged in farm to cafeteria efforts throughout the country have found that increased local foods on their menus increases participation in school lunch.
“Trying new and different vegetables is a big part of developing healthy eating habits. When we can expose students to the wide variety of fresh foods available from local farms, we’re helping the local community, too.” says Caitlin Joseph. “That multifaceted benefit is what farm to school is all about!”
If you are a farmer interested in establishing a relationship with Dexter Community Schools, please see our For Farmers page for more information!