Winona’s Lunch Bus handed out hundreds of free lunches to kids younger that 18 during the June-August summer period. (Photo: Winona Youth Services)
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture last year gave out 83 grants to schools in support of the state’s Farm to School program, which seeks to connect school districts with local farmers and provide hands-on learning experiences for students. This year, to further promote that program, Governor Mark Dayton declared October to be “Farm to School Month.”
Last week, a number of Ag Department and elected officials visited Winona Senior High School to see how well the program, which focuses on small and mid-sized family farms, is working ‘in the field,’ as it were.
The school’s nutrition director, Jennifer Walters, led the group on a tour showcasing their community garden, the bus used for the Summer Lunch Bus program, and the newest addition to their cafeteria — a frozen yogurt machine, which the school purchased using the Farm to School grant received last year.
“We want our students to know some of the food they eat comes from local farms in the area,” Walters said. “There’s a lot of dairy farmers in the area and the frozen yogurt machine is another way to support them while providing students with local product.”
Department official Paul said it’s important to promote local agriculture and sustainable farming and get healthy, nutritious meals into students stomachs.
Andrea Vaubel, the assistant commissioner, was impressed with everything the school is doing to promote relationships with local farmers and implement locally grown food into the nutrition program. She was particularly impressed with the school’s Summer Lunch Bus Program.
“Wow, this is really great,” she said after Walters showed the group the bus and explained the program.
Walters said the school plans to apply for the Farm to School grant again this year to continue the momentum of promoting and incorporating locally grown food into the school’s lunch program and school curriculum.
The school’s community garden was started last year with help from a grant from the Winona Area Public Schools Foundation, but was only recently completed. Their Summer Lunch Bus program began last summer, serving 3,500 meals to students. And Miller said the frozen yogurt machine, purchased with last year’s $5,500 grant, has been a popular addition to the school’s lunch, according to an article in the Winona Daily News.