Lunch Participation Jumps When Students Learn About Local Ingredients

One school district increased school meal participation by educating their students about the local, healthy options they were already sourcing from local Kentucky Farmers. IMG-7308Fayette County Public School’s (FCPS) Nutrition Department (KY) worked closely with their Farm to School program to coordinate the Fayette Farm to School Challenge, a weeklong program filled with taste tests, cafeteria guests and educational programs to help increase student participation.

The Fayette Farm to School program worked to promote the educational aspect to families, students and staff, while the FCPS School Nutrition Department procured and prepared local menu items for the week. They featured recipes including cheesy chicken étouffée, an original created by District Chef Todd Gorrell, containing Kentucky sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The week also showcased how kid-favorites, like hot dogs and Sloppy Joe’s, could be made healthier, using locally-sourced produce and local farm-raised meats.

Fayette Farm to School Challenge Week Menu:

Daily:

Monday – feature item (Sweet potatoes and butternut squash from various farms including: Rootbound Farm in Louisville (KY); Lazy Eight Stock Farm in Berea (KY); Gary Barber Farms in Graves County(KY) and peppers from Casey County Organics, frozen by FoodChain.

Tuesday – feature item Taco Beef made with beef from Meadowbrook Farm with KHI Foods‘ honey apple salsa.

Wednesday – feature item Hot Dog made with beef/pork from Marksbury Farm Market in Lancaster (KY).

Thursday – feature item Sloppy Joe made with beef from Meadowbrook Farm in Richmond (KY).

Friday – Blueberries from Kentucky Blueberry Growers Association in Edmonton (KY).

Staff invited parents and local farmers to visit during lunch, allowing students and parents to taste test local produce in school menu options as well as meet the farmers who grow their food. According to Michelle Coker, director of child nutrition for FCPS, the students loved getting to meet real farmers and asked a lot of questions about the process of running a farm.

School meal participation has increased drastically now that students are learning where their food comes from. Rosa Parks Elementary increased meal participation 23 percent that week alone and participation at Sandersville Elementary has since increased by 15 percent. Due to the success of these educational programs about school meals, Coker plans on implementing more events throughout the district, helping to teach students and parents about the hard work that goes into the food being served in their cafeterias.

Sandersville Farm to School Challenge

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