Farm to school cultivates the connections communities have with local and regional food producers and healthy, fresh food. This is accomplished through education practices and through changing the way food is purchased. It has taken some time and researching but Mesabi East is excited to step into the field.

Jenna Ballinger, Community Health Specialist at Essentia Health, said, "I am so proud of Mesabi East for pushing this forward. They will be the first school in the area to do so."

The way Farm to School is implemented doesn't look the same at every location but involves at least one of the following elements: procurement, education, and/or school gardens.

Superintendent Gregg Allen hopes to start getting away from pre-processed foods as well. He also hopes to build a relationship with our local farmers and to cut out the middle man and keep the costs down. "If Mesabi East and other schools would enter into a yearly contract, area food growers would have a market. Schools use a lot of food!" he said.

Ballinger believes that Mesabi East could be a model for other districts. "Sometimes farm to school programs can seem daunting. There's a misconception that schools have to suddenly change a large portion of their ingredients to locally sourced," she explained. "Most of the time it starts small. It's stocking part of the salad bar with local greens or using herbs grown by the students in soups and salads. It starts on a small scale and then it can grow from there. It's not as intimidating as it looks."

Greenhouse manager Rachel Doherty will oversee student gardening and is instrumental in spearheading the farm to school program at Mesabi East. "This allows students to interact with local produce which shows them the importance of sustainability and community. The program is a win, win for our community. Mesabi East students have local healthy fresh options and the farmers have an income that they may not otherwise have."

Visit isd2711.org for more farm to school information if interested in putting in a bid or follow the Mesabi East Environmental Education Center on Facebook and Instagram!

Barbara Hinsz

Assistant Greenhouse Manager

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