Kansas farm to school month showcases agriculture education and fresh foods efforts

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Amongst rotary hydroponics filled with growing greens and vertical gardens hydrated by aquaponics, Maize High agriculture education and culinary program students mingled with state and national leaders in agriculture, education and nutrition services. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback proclaimed October as Kansas Farm to School Month and Oct. 6-10 as Kansas Farm to School Week.  This morning leaders took student-led tours of the Maize USD 266 Farm to School and culinary programs to learn more about food education.

Kansas Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Jake Worcester was joined by Kansas Interim Commissioner of Education Brad Neuenswander, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Regional Administrator Darlene Barnes, as well as other state and national officials and Maize High students to recognize the growing number of diverse farm to school programs in Kansas.

“All across the state, KDA Farm to School sub-grantees areselecting food production systems that fit best into their program to serve students, while also educating students about the importance of agriculture and nutrition.” KDA Assistant Secretary Worcester said. “The Maize High agriculture education and culinary programs prove that when we allow students to utilize their talents, great things happen.”

The event included a student-led tour of the Maize Farm to School program which incorporates several different food production methods, including hydroponics and aquaponics. Culinary program students gave event attendees a tour of their kitchen facilities and explained the value of culinary education.

At Maize High, student ideas are turned into reality in the Career & Technical Education programs. Stylan Roberts, Senior at Maize High and Maize FFA Chapter President enjoys seeing his classmates’ model drawings come to life. “We can do this ourselves, we can grow our own food and sustain ourselves. It’s wonderful to see younger students become inspired to engage with agriculture,” Roberts said.

Guests enjoyed a meal that included greens from the Maize Farm to School program which were also served in the cafeteria that day. Nearly all the ingredients were locally sourced for the menu which included sweet and sloppy joe on whole wheat bun, cucumber and onion salad, roasted vegetables, spring salad mix with balsamic vinaigrette, and juicy apple crisp with honey whipped cream. The meal was developed and prepared by Maize culinary program students with a little help from event guests. Alongside students, event attendees helped harvest the greens and prepare the salad for lunch.

Maize USD 266 is one of eight recipients of the KDA Farm to School sub-grant awarded this spring. Sub-grants are derived from the grant KDA received from the USDA in the fall of 2013 to support efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through the Farm to School program.  The purpose of the grant is to expand the prevalence of fresh, local foods in school cafeterias and bolster agriculture and nutrition education.

“I am so impressed with Kansas and their Farm to School activities,” USDA FNS Regional Administrator Barnes said. “So far, more than 34 percent of Kansas schools are participating in Farm to School and they are mainly buying local produce to increase the fruits and vegetables served in school meals.  Because Kansas just got a USDA Farm to School grant, I know that more schools will get involved and help healthy habits take root.”

For more information about KDA Farm to School, please visit agriculture.ks.gov/farmtoschool or contact KDA Education and Events Coordinator, Nellie Hill at [email protected] or 785-564-6756.

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