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Farm to School Helping Shawnee Students Eat Healthier

For many children, the most nutritious meals are when they are at school. Thanks to a program called Farm to School, lunches at Shawnee Public Schools are getting both fresher and healthier.
Farm to School Helping Shawnee Students Eat Healthier

Farm to School program

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Oklahoma Farm to School

Show Dates

Show 1026: Farm to School

Air date: June 27, 2010

 

Transcript

Rob: Well, for many children, their most nutritious meal of the day is when they’re at school. And thanks to a program called Farm to School, those lunches are getting both fresher and healthier. Our Courtenay DeHoff takes us to Will Rogers Elementary in Shawnee, Okla.

Courtenay: School lunches aren’t just about frozen chicken strips anymore. Kids in Shawnee are getting a fresh taste of Oklahoma, during their lunch hour.

Deborah Taylor: We have to draw the students, we have to make them want to eat with us. Then we have to serve things that they want to eat.

Courtenay: Oklahoma’s Farm to School program allows kids to eat the foods they like, foods grown by farmers, right here in the state. Deborah Taylor is the school nutritionist and says the Farm to School program not only helps the farmers, but helps kids live healthier lifestyles.

Deborah: If we can have things that are fresh from Oklahoma that’s a wonderful thing, if we can be a market for our farmers, the family farmers. I don’t, I didn’t grow up in a farming family, but a whole lot of people around here did and, and if we can, if we can be a, an outlet for them, a market for them, then that’s great. This is the part that surprises people. Kids love fresh produce. For the most part our Shawnee kids eat dramatically more fruits and vegetables period, from any source, than they did 18 years ago when I came. Part of that is it has to be there in order for them to eat it.

Courtenay: And Shawnee Schools are doing everything they can to make sure it is there.

Kathleen Merrigan: The president and first lady are really very excited about.

Courtenay: U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan visited Will Rogers Elementary in Shawnee as part of a push to bring more locally produced foods into our schools.

Kathleen: I think one thing we should do is we should thank our farmers.

[sounds of kids cheering]

Courtenay: And while exciting, the Farm to School program is not without its challenges, according to Taylor.

Deborah: We don’t get food cheaper from a farmer. And on their part they, schools are relatively poor and farmers are poor and so it’s not like we can, that we, we’ve got a lot of kids to feed so they got, they’ve got a big market there, but we’re not, we are not, well, we don’t get enough money to pay them the high dollar that they can get from restaurants and things that are promoting locally grown and locally produced foods.

Courtenay: Yet local growers are thankful for the extra income.

Claudia Crow: We’ll be diggin’ potatoes probably in about a week, cucumbers in a couple.

Courtenay: Claudia Crow is part of a local farm family that grows food for the program.

Claudia: It was a way for us to be able to raise a little more produce and have a place where we could take it and know that it was sold. Not that it doesn’t have its problems. It does have its problems, and I know that they’re working to figure them out and make it possible for us to continue, for instance, raise broccoli and know that the school’s gonna to take it. It has a place to go, and it is, you know, giving a huge benefit to that community, so.

Courtenay: Crow says the Farm to School program helps connect young kids back to the farmers who grow their food.

Claudia: We provide a service to your community, not just a product. You know, we can lose CEOs and COOs, and the world would still continue, but you cannot lose your teachers, your farm and your farmers, you know. We depend on them to make the wheels turn in the world that we live in.

Courtenay: And provide much needed nutrition to local schools.