A Good Recipe for Farm to School

Cambridge, Wisconsin's Chef in the Classroom Brings Healthy Food to Life

December 13, 2016 |
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Chef Gene Gowan prepares butternut squash pancakes from scratch for Cambridge, Wisconsin second graders.<\/p>"

The Farm to School movement makes so much sense for small schools and rural communities. Students eat better and learn about food and agriculture. Local economies are strengthened, and small farms are supported. Furthermore, school communities are bolstered by thriving farm families and purposeful partnerships. The latter point is especially significant because so many rural regions have been hurt badly by farm consolidation and de-population.

However, converting school lunchrooms to local food menus has many challenges. This is why the Rural Schools Collaborative encourages rural school districts to take incremental steps with Farm to School programming. School gardens, snack programs, and special local food events are just a few of the ways a small, rural district can begin a good conversation on the relationship between nutrition, school and the local economy.

Cambridge, Wisconsin's Farm to School Chef in the Classroom is a wonderful example of an action step that can be taken by a small, rural school district. Featuring Chef Gene Gowan of Cannella Culinary, the Chef in the Classroom program has introduced Cambridge Elementary School students to local foods and healthy meals during the last four years. Each cooking event features a seasonal ingredient with much of the produce harvested from the Cambridge Elementary School Garden. The students are taught nutritious recipes by Chef Gowan and other local chefs. In addition, students learn about the food that is featured. During our visit second graders learned about butternut squash and maple syrup, both of which are produced in southern Wisconsin.

"We love squash pancakes," seemed to be a common refrain! Support funding for the project is provided by the Cambridge Elementary PTO.

Principal Chris Holt pointed out that Cambridge Elementary School's Farm to School efforts are not limited to the Chef in the Classroom. The school is in the process of applying to be a part of Wisconsin's Green & Healthy Schools program, with an eye on the national Green Ribbon School award. Cambridge Elementary also uses its garden for their monthly “Try it Tuesdays” program, where kids taste a new food product that they may never have encountered before--one that often comes from their own school garden. The garden is also incorporated into summer school and preschool. Harvested items go to the school kitchen when school is in session, and additional produce is donated to the local food pantry. Holt explained, "They are trying to grow more 'quick snack' foods for students, like pea pods and carrots, to encourage healthy eating in school."


If you would like to brainstorm ideas on how to start a Farm to School program in your community, please contact us at info@ruralschoolscollaborative.org. We will be more than pleased to help you plant the seeds that will connect students, farmers, and community! Also, please share this story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


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