LAFAYETTE - With a little help from their friends, Lafayette Charter School (LCS) students and staff are eating healthier and buying more locally produced food.
The school received a $10,500 Farm to School Grant to purchase a steamer, salad bar, microwave oven, and food processor to increase storage and preparation of locally grown produce and meats.
The grant included a $5,270 Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) contribution and a $2,638 matching grant from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Charlie Poster, left, talks with Lafayette Charter School (LCS) Food Service Manger Ann Gieseke Monday during a tour of the school kitchen.
The grant program was created to increase sales of Minnesota agriculture products to pre-school and K-12 institutions and help schools offset the costs of buying new equipment. It will enable them to prepare, serve, and preserve more locally grown food. Last year, the MDA issued about $227,000 in grants to Minnesota schools.
Up to 50 percent of equipment purchases and up to 75 percent of feasibility study costs may be covered by the grants with schools making up the difference.
Blue Cross funding is part of the company's long-term health initiative to reduce preventable chronic disease by tackling its root causes-tobacco use, physical inactivity, and unhealthy eating.
"We're certainly fortunate to get funds to help us prepare and serve fresh, nutritious vegetables," LCS Business Manager Sandra Stugelmeyer said. "This enables us to get locally produced corn, tomatoes, peppers, and apples - some of which came from our school garden. Students began planting tomato seeds in our heated greenhouse last February. We had a vegetable and flower sale in May."
Stugelmeyer thanked the school volunteers who prepared food that came from a dozen or so gardens in and around Lafayette.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Charlie Poster said the Farm to School Program is good for schools and farmers.
"Governor Dayton put $250,000 for the program into his budget this year and $500,000 next year," Poster said. "Thirteen schools got grants this year. We hope that number doubles next year. Pretty soon, kids will be eating broccoli instead of McNuggets. Who wouldn't want to eat some Minnesota sweet corn in September, October or November?"
Farm to School Farmers include Hermanson's Harvest, Nicollet; Windjammer Farm, Hanska; Alternative Roots Farm, Madelia; Blackstad Gardens, Hanska; Starland, Gibbon; and A-Peeling Acres, New Ulm.
"We will find an apple you love," said Diane Rodenberg of A-Peeling Acres. which includes 14 apple varieties among 700 apple trees.
"Apples are a great, natural fruit," she said.
Ann Gieseke, LCS Food Services Manager, said the Farm to School program also provided eggplants, squash, muskmelon, watermelon, rutabagas and other vegetables to the school.
"We'll freeze some of the food and eat some of it raw," Gieseke said.
Farm to School grantors included the MDA $9,547.71; Blue Cross/Blue Shield $2,638.23; LCS Parents Reaching Out for Students $2,638.23 and the Lafayette Area Lions Club $1,423.50.
Farm to School Volunteers are JoAnn Portner, Julie Buntjer, Randy and Erin Gjerde, Amy, April, Caiden Sjogren, Jaime and Irie Olsen, Miranda Beaulieu, Wendy Gjerde, Sandy and Matthew Hartley, Lorenzo Venturini, Shayla Fox, Ann Gieseke and Sandra Stugelmeyer.
Farm to School Gardeners are Dave and Sandy Burger, Charlie and Sandy Hartley, LCS Raise Bed Garden and Apple Tree, Randy, Nick and Erin Gjerde, Arden and Marilyn DeBoer, Alan and Tally Clobes, Joyce Halverson, Kapolczynski Family, Bill and Shirley Krohn, Hilarian and Diane Brey and Mark and Jill Haler.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).