Originally Published by: The Nugget News
by: Erin Borla
October is National Farm to School month, and the Sisters School District is celebrating it to the fullest.
Throughout the next month students will get an opportunity to taste-test different foods, create their own toppings on items like vegetarian chili and the baked-potato bar, as well as enjoy fruits and vegetables straight from the farm.
“This month we have the smallest, most flavorful grapes from Cottage Grove,” said Terri Rood, nutrition services operations assistant. “And cantaloupe, watermelon, broccoli, celery and cauliflower from Mt. Angel’s Happy Harvest Farms.”
Rood is most excited about the vegetarian lasagna – made with vegetables straight from the Seed to Table program here in Sisters – as well as vegetarian chili and the baked-potato bar. Both the chili and the potato bar will have toppings set out for students to pick and choose and add their own selection of unique items.
“We will have steamed broccoli, bacon bits we make in-house, salsa, cheese, onions and instead of sour cream we serve non-fat Greek yogurt,” said Rood.
The nutrition services staff does their best to mix kid-friendly food like pizza and corn dogs – made with all-beef hot dogs and whole-grain corn breading – with additional, more healthy alternatives. A salad bar and selection of fruits are offered every day.
“The Farm to School program allows us to have ‘new’ fresh foods for the students to try and learn about,” said Rood. “We love to see their eyes light up when trying something new, kiwi one year and jicama last year.”
The local Seed to Table program is working closely with the nutrition services team to provide weekly taste-testings where students will have the opportunity to try cabbage, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, kale and other vegetables. Many items in the daily food bar will highlight local produce, much of that from the Seed to Table program as well.
The Oregon Farm to School programs are housed under both the State agencies of agriculture and education. According to their website, “Farm to School was launched to empower children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.”
For the last several years the District has participated in this month of celebrating local foods – but not just during the month of October.
“We offer our salad bar year-round,” said Rood. “Many of our fruits and vegetables are locally sourced from farms throughout the state of Oregon.”
In fact all three schools received a brand-new salad-bar cart for this school year donated by Oregon Potato Commission.
“We knew they were going to donate one bar,” said Rood. “But when it ended up being one for each school – a total of three – I just thought that was so amazing.”
All three schools have daily breakfast and lunch items available.
“I really feel that we have a great team in our Nutrition Services Department,” said Rood. “Our staff works around all the obstacles to get meals out in a timely manner and presented well. Teaching students about choices is an ongoing venture for all our staff – and we enjoy it.”
Students who are eligible for the Meal Benefit Program (free and reduced lunch) need to fill out a new application every year. Applications can be found at each of the school sites or on the School District website at www.ssd6.org/nutrition.