Farm to School Month promotes local foods, ag lessons


A piece of the farm was on the menu Friday at Crawfordsville Middle School.

The school is serving more locally-sourced produce in the cafeteria as part of a nationwide effort to teach students about agriculture.

During a local food summit earlier this year, Crawfordsville Community Schools resident dietician Tarrah McCreary led a session on the farm to school movement, which serves as a pipeline between local producers and school kitchens.

“It’s just a passion of mine, honestly, teaching little ones about where our food comes from,” McCreary said.

The summit led to the creation of the Montgomery County Farm to Food Coalition, a partnership between school meal provider Chartwells, Purdue Extension and local farmers.

In recognition of Farm to School Month, middle school students took part in a lunchtime program featuring taste tests and a trivia contest about produce consumption in the United States. Sixth grader Chet Kincaid spun a wheel as Extension educator Ashley Adair talked about popular fruits and vegetables on American dinner tables.

“I did not realize how many pounds of

radishes Americans consume,” Kincaid said.

Chartwells chef Joseph Peretin said serving locally-grown foods in the cafeteria benefits area farmers and encourages students to ask their families to prepare meals with fresh ingredients at home.

Peretin dished up samples of Ratatouille, the vegetable dish made popular by the 2007 Pixar film about a rat who dreams of becoming a cook. Students took samples of the stew back to the lunch table.

“Some of them were telling me, ‘Oh, I’ve already had this. We make this at home all the time,’ which is exactly what we want to hear,” Peretin said.

Crawfordsville is one of more than 120 schools across Indiana that participate in farm-to-school activities, according to the National Farm to School Network, which advocates for local foods, gardens and agriculture education in schools. North and South Montgomery are also part of the network.

“I feel like the schools are ready for it and the kids are excited about it,” Purdue Extension community wellness coordinator HollyCatron said.

McCreary teaches lessons about nutrition and the origin of food. The school district recently partnered with First Christian Church in Crawfordsville to reduce the amount of leftover food in the middle school cafeteria.

Students can place unopened items in a box to share with other children. Each week, the church picks up about 500 pounds of food, which is donated to FISH.

Less than 100 quarts of food served at the middle school are thrown away per week, McCreary said.

McCreary wants to expand the gardens at Nicholson Elementary and Crawfordsville High School and the Farm to Food coalition would like to hold more planting and food waste lessons that were offered during the Fuel Up to Play 60 kickoff at Hoover Elementary earlier this month.

“The small little changes do impact long-term and … can do a ripple effect across the community,” she said.