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News Articles of Interest for Slow Food

Below are news articles and other various types of informational sources for information on Slow Food.

  • Program puts locally grown produce on students’ plates
    In dozens of school lunchrooms across Oklahoma, students are enjoying locally grown produce, thanks to the Oklahoma Farm to School program. The program helps link Oklahoma growers and farmers with schools wanting to serve locally grown vegetables and fruit.

  • Program growing stronger each school year as Farm to School program generates more interest, farmers, students benefit
    Oklahoma’s Farm to School program began as a pilot project, with one Oklahoma grower selling seedless watermelons to four Oklahoma school districts. The following year, the watermelons were sold to six Oklahoma school districts. Another Oklahoma grower, with sweet honeydew melons, joined Farm to School in the experiment to link Oklahoma farmers and growers with schools, so children would eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Oklahoma’s soil.

  • Iowa college report supports local food
    A group of 10 Grinnell College students in Iowa studied the college's food system in 2006, looking at the feasibility of serving a greater array of local foods in college dining facilities.

 

Program puts locally grown produce on students’ plates
By Sharon Dowell Food Editor

In dozens of school lunchrooms across Oklahoma, students are enjoying locally grown produce, thanks to the Oklahoma Farm to School program. The program helps link Oklahoma growers and farmers with schools wanting to serve locally grown vegetables and fruit.

Students in grade schools, middle schools and high schools are enjoying Oklahoma-grown produce — including seedless watermelons, honeydew melons, peaches, strawberries, different types of lettuce, green onions, tomatoes, basil, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes and even asparagus. They get to eat what’s in season and what growers are harvesting.

Chris Kirby, Oklahoma’s Farm to School administrator, said the program is one way our state is helping improve students’ health and well-being.

“It is connecting the local farmer with the local school districts in an effort to get kids better access to gardenfresh fruits and vegetables while providing wonderful economic opportunities for our farmers,” Kirby said. “But it goes a lot further than that. It’s a real holistic approach. It’s getting the kids connected back to agriculture and learning where the food comes from through school gardens and farmers markets and farm visits, through the tasting opportunities, cooking classes and getting chefs involved through cooking classes.”

If you can teach the students how fruits and vegetables taste and how to grow them, they will carry that knowledge through their lifetime, Kirby said recently. “It’s about access to those foods. Farm to School is getting kids connected back to the source of our food, wanting to eat it,” she said.

The students also are learning why the Oklahoma-grown foods are important to their health and well-being and why health, nutrition and fitness are important throughout their lives.

Kirby works with child-nutrition directors and food-service directors at the schools, with Ag in the Classroom to provide educational materials, with the state Education Department and with growers and farmers.

In the works is an Oklahoma Farm to School Web site, but it will not be operational for a while. However, www. farmtoschool.org is a general Web site focusing on program milestones in the 23 states that have adopted some form of the Farm to School program.

“I would love to see this program grow and down the road possibly expand to other Oklahoma foods,” said Angie Treat, child-nutrition director with the public schools in Beggs, which takes part in Farm to School, working with local grower James Cooper of Bristow. “You hope you can make a difference, one child at a time.” Cooper grows produce just for the one school district and delivers the food to the door of the school district’s kitchens.

The Oklahoma Farm to School program officially came into being with a state law passed and signed in 2006. However, the concept took root six years ago, when the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, working through the Oklahoma Food Policy Council, were seeking a way to connect local farmers, local food and local consumers. A survey of the state’s public institutions — schools, hospitals, prisons and parks — was conducted in 2002 to see if those facilities were interested in serving Oklahoma-grown foods.

“We had a 68 percent response rate, and that told us there was real interest in this concept out there,” Kirby said. “A lot of schools were wanting to work with local growers but they had so many questions and concerns — they didn’t know if they could compete in price, how delivery would work, if farmers were willing to work with schools or even if there was enough production available during the school year.”

Kirby said the pilot project for Farm to School was launched in 2005 with the Shawnee, Broken Arrow, Edmond and Tahlequah school districts buying seedless watermelons grown by Bob Ramming of Ramming Produce Inc. near Hinton. The following year, Tulsa and Muskogee schools were added to the pilot program, and three times as many Hinton watermelons were sold to the schools to be served in the lunchrooms. Ramming now sells watermelons to many of the school districts involved in the state program.

“It’s very involved,” Ramming said. He deals with a broker, who handles all the paperwork necessary to get the produce from the farm to the schools. “I just grow it and box it and ship it,” Ramming said. “It’s an excellent program. I’d like to see a lot more items grown for the program. I hope that will happen.”

Kirby has been involved with the Oklahoma Farm to School concept from the beginning, as a member of the Food Policy Council and then with the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to help make the Oklahoma Farm to School program a reality. She then applied for the job of program administrator. Though she’s been administrator for only five months, she is working to increase the number of Farm to School participant schools and growers throughout Oklahoma and spreading the word about its early successes to groups outside Oklahoma.

Trained in marketing, Kirby’s previous work has included being coordinator of the OSU-OKC Farmers Market and working to expand the Urban Harvest and Community Gardens programs through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

 


Program growing stronger each school year
As Farm to School program generates more interest, farmers, students benefit

By Sharon Dowell Food Editor Sharon Dowell: 475-3304; sdowell@Oklahoman.com

Oklahoma’s Farm to School program began as a pilot project, with one Oklahoma grower selling seedless watermelons to four Oklahoma school districts. The following year, the watermelons were sold to six Oklahoma school districts. Another Oklahoma grower, with sweet honeydew melons, joined Farm to School in the experiment to link Oklahoma farmers and growers with schools, so children would eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Oklahoma’s soil.

The idea made sense, and today, more schools and growers are signing on to participate. It benefits growers, it benefits Oklahoma agriculture, and it is a great opportunity for schoolchildren to be exposed to the nutritional advantages of fresh-grown produce while learning about the produce, where its grown, how its grown and even to get the chance to visit the farm or meet the growers in the classrooms.

Through Farm to School, children are getting the chance to enjoy Oklahoma-grown lettuces and salad mixes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, cabbage, strawberries, onions and melons. This year, the list of produce items will grow as more farmers and school districts get involved with Farm to School.

Growers such as Wayne and Connie Whitmore of Whitmore Farms, Coyle, are selling strawberries, asparagus and cantaloupes to Stillwater Public Schools. Susan Bergen of Peachcrest Farms is growing spinach for Noble and Norman Public Schools. Bergen will also sell peaches, sweet potatoes and more spinach to these schools for the 2007-08 school year.

Shawnee Public Schools, one of the four participants in the Farm to School pilot project in 2004, still serves the melons in the school lunchrooms and is working to provide produce grown at nearby Crow’s Vegetable Farms, which has been active in Shawnee-area farmers markets for years. The familyoperated business plans to supply lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli and maybe greenhouse tomatoes to the schools this fall.

Deborah Taylor, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition services for the 4,000 students at seven feeding sites for the Shawnee schools, said the elementary students get three fruit and vegetable options each day, middle school students have mini salad bars and high school students, who “take way more than I can afford to give them,” get the fresh produce in preportioned servings. She will be taking the district’s food service staff of 45 on a field trip to the Crow’s farm June 1 to let them see exactly where the produce is being grown and harvested for the students.

The small Beggs School District is buying melons grown by Hinton-area farmer Bob Ramming as well as a variety of produce planted just for the students by James Cooper of Bristow, who lives about 15 miles from the school. Cooper delivers the produce himself for the students to enjoy on the salad bar.

“Every student at the district’s three feeding sites has the opportunity to go through the salad bar,” said Angie Treat, the district’s child nutrition director.

“It is a challenge, both for James and for me. He is trying to figure out what to plant, and for me, it’s a matter when we’ll get the produce.” Because rain, dry weather and temperatures can affect what Cooper will have available to harvest, Treat relies on a produce company to fill in the gaps when she can’t get produce from Cooper. “It’s a long, long process,” Treat said.

“Right now, James is planning for the fall, trying to figure our how much to plant. It’s a matter of keeping the lines of communication open between him and us. He gets frustrated, too, with things like the early cold snap and the more recent rains.

“I appreciate the fact our school district is participating in this program and the teachers are getting involved,” Treat said. “What could be any better for a school district? It is a little more expense to buy from the local farmer, and that is a challenge.”

When the Beggs schools began offering Cooper’s fresh lettuces, Treat said, some of the high school students were so impressed with the freshness of the items on the school’s salad bar, they called Cooper to let him know how much they appreciated his food. One of those students was Austin Mayes, who now works for Cooper at his farm. Mayes said the job is great conditioning for football, getting him used to working in the heat and building muscle strength.

His favorite part of working at the farm is “getting ready for market by getting the food loaded up,” he said, although he also said the job has meant taking home fresh produce for his family to enjoy, too.

Mayes said the Farm to School program means “no more iceberg lettuce, the food is healthier and fresher, and it tastes really good.”

The 42,000 students in Tulsa Public Schools have been enjoying the Hinton-grown seedless watermelons for several years, and that will expand to honeydew melons, broccoli and maybe sweet potatoes during the 2007-08 school year, said Lisa Griffin, child nutrition coordinator for the Tulsa schools. She said the locally grown food actually ends up costing her less than if she’d buy it from the produce companies.

“We’d love to buy it all from the Oklahoma growers,” said Griffin, a dietitian. The schools have a chef on staff who creates and develops recipes, and this fall, the Tulsa schools will be implementing a program called Salad Bar A to Z, which will involve a salad bar featuring fresh produce, from asparagus to zucchini.

Griffin has teamed with Chris Kirby, administrator of the Farm to School program, to have Market Day on Thursday for a Tulsa elementary school and a middle school, involving more than 700 children. Griffin plans to have some locally grown produce available for the students and parents to buy, and students will sample purple and green asparagus, watch cooking demonstrations, listen to Master Gardeners, see a dairy cow and a goat, make a vegetable pot and take home a tomato or pepper plant. One produce company has offered to provide samples of fruits including pineapple, kiwifruit and star fruit to expose the students to even more produce.

“The Farm to School program will bring far-reaching benefits, not only to our children but to our society,” said Terry Peach, Oklahoma’s agriculture secretary. “By providing fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables through school lunches, we’re giving students more nutritional foods. We think this is the best tool we have to fight our current epidemic of childhood obesity. It’s also a great opportunity for local producers, as it opens new avenues for diversifying their farming operations by creating a new market,” Peach said.

“We have 540 school districts in the state,” Kirby said. “That leaves opportunities for very small growers right on up to the very large growers to participate in this program. Private schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa are interested in participating. Farm to School is just a starting point. There’s also Farm to College, Farm to Cafeteria, Farm to Hospital. Lots of hospitals are looking to get their meals healthier, too, not only for their employees but for their patients. Now more than ever, the opportunities for fruits and vegetables growers are huge,” Kirby said.

Oklahoma stands at the forefront of the Farm to School movement, Kirby said. “More than 23 states have adapted some form of Farm to School. But we’re one of the few states that has a comprehensive law that supports the Farm to School program.”

 

Iowa college report supports local food

A group of 10 Grinnell College students in Iowa studied the college's food system in 2006, looking at the feasibility of serving a greater array of local foods in college dining facilities.

Working with Jon Andelson, director of the school's Center for Prairie Studies and a professor of anthropology, the students compiled data including dining service logistics, student interest, nutrition, environmental impact, producer availability, economic viability and how the college might work with the local public school district in securing locally grown and produced food.

The report outlined challenges and opportunities of a Farm to College program at a small liberal arts college in an agricultural community. The college's dining services, headed by Dick Williams, reported in 2005 it was and continues to contract with Farmers Hen House in Kalona, Iowa, to use cage-free eggs from Amish and Mennonite farms. The college also offers its students Iowa-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs; Iowa honey and pasta as well as Maytag blue cheese from Newton, Iowa; and it uses Asoyia, a trans fat-free cooking oil produced from soybeans grown by Iowa farmers.

Last year, coordinator Eli Zigas wrote, "My hope for this report is that it helps not only Grinnell but also colleges around the country in their efforts to incorporate local food into their dining halls.

"Students may not be known for their interest in local food, but our report demonstrates that we care where our food comes from and that we're willing to work to find it locally.”

 





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