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South Dakota Forum held to discuss Healthy Meals for Students

Opportunities for freshly grown local produce to be served in schools were discussed when school district food service directors attended an informational forum in Pierre, South Dakota last week.  They participated with a panel made up of South Dakota food producers, USDA Rural Development, South Dakota State Department of Agriculture, Dakota Rural Action, the state Department of Health, Value Added Agriculture Development Center and South Dakota Buy Fresh-Buy Local representatives.

Farm to School is a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.

Dakota Rural Action (DRA), a non-profit, grassroots, family agriculture and conservation group led the meeting to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with establishing the relationship with a local foods producer with the schools.  The organization had completed an assessment which identified the biggest barriers and also the state’s interest in such a program.

Value Added Agriculture Development Center (VAADC) representative and Buy Fresh-Buy Local director, Pat Garrity, discussed the organization’s goal of increasing the use of local foods in schools by up to ten percent as one way of increasing the awareness and consumption of local foods in South Dakota.   Through a grant from USDA-Rural Development, VAADC is collaborating with Buy Fresh Buy Local and others to explore local food marketing and distribution system opportunities in South Dakota.

School food service directors asked questions regarding packaging and certification of the produce.  With federal requirements requiring healthier options for lunches; the schools are interested in utilizing a local supply of produce.  The Directors also requested information about various grant opportunities and how to apply for them.

Mark Werner, an Oacoma vegetable farmer, said “We are excited and look forward to creating this relationship with the schools.” Producers in attendance were glad that the discussion has started as they are now planning their 2011 planting season and need to know the expected demand.

Federal partners on the panel gave their support to the discussion and offered any assistance that is needed.  Christine Sorensen, USDA-Rural Development Coordinator, stated “Rural Development is supportive of such programs because it creates a crucial link between local consumption and local production.”

To learn more about USDA programs that support local food production, click here.

Rural Development Coordinator Christine Sorensen, Holly Tilton- Dakota Rural Action Organizer, Pat Garrity- Buy Fresh Buy Local Director, and Joe Schaffer- President of Food Service Directors Council discuss opportunities to provide locally produced foods to South Dakota schools.

Rural Development Coordinator Christine Sorensen, Holly Tilton- Dakota Rural Action Organizer, Pat Garrity- Buy Fresh Buy Local Director, and Joe Schaffer- President of Food Service Directors Council discuss opportunities to provide locally produced foods to South Dakota schools.

4 Responses to “South Dakota Forum held to discuss Healthy Meals for Students”

  1. Doreen says:

    If every state could implament this style of a system for say a 50 miles radius for tax dollars to buy ALL SCHOOL served foods…Imagine the increase in local agriculture growth alone!
    This would also spur job growth again through manufacturering for local sources ag-based products…such as cheese, bottled milk, canned tomato sauce, apple sauce, grape juice, etc This would also increase the likelyhood of smaller greenhouses being brought into the private sector to produce foods through hot houses or hydroponics for year round production of peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, etc.
    I would like to see the USDA Rural Development do some very specific research on that type of requirement!!!! I would love to see the numbers on that!
    By the way….Congrats South Dakota on stepping up!

  2. David Greenlee says:

    I live for these moments. South Dakota is showing the way. Git ‘er done, Pat!. Let me know when you want some grape juice.

    Dave

  3. Suzan Nolan says:

    DRA office director in Rapid City and I had a very productive meetng with the head of the school lunch program in Rapid City, Marie Olson. She was very impressed by what DRA has been doing in brining together producers and finding markets for their produce. In Sept. of 2011 we will be having a local food introduced into our school lunch and an educational piece with this too so that students will know where their vegetables come from and how they are grown. It is a big step in the right direction for the health and nutrition of our students.

  4. Michelle Brand says:

    I am wondering what schools this has been implmented in this last year. So far our school is still opening a bag or a can and throwing it in the oven or on a tray.

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