|The following stories were submitted by NH Farm to School network partners.
Local Food Grows in the Lakes Region
by Lisa Morin
Most commonly known for its stunningly beautiful lakes and mountain top vistas, the Lakes Region of New Hampshire is gaining recognition for its burgeoning demand for easy access to locally grown food. There have long been busy farm stands dotting country roads in the area, and now those same farms are finding a market for their products in schools, hospitals and retail stores. The Gilford School District was an early devotee to incorporating locally grown fruits, vegetables and beef into their food service program. The same idea has been adopted by the newly formed Laconia Health and Wellness Academy, a program developed via a joint effort of the Laconia School District and the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health. This program is responsible for establishing the "edible gardens" used in the curriculum at Laconia High School, and providing the materials for several more gardens at other local schools.
The commitment by the broader community to expand opportunities to access locally produced food has been demonstrated by the formation of groups like the Lakes Region Food Network, the no less than three farmer's markets in the region, the online Local Foods Plymouth market, the newly published Lakes Region Local Food Guide, more farms opening their doors to the public, the citizen demand for education met by the UNH Cooperative Extension and the Master Gardeners, the establishment of more community gardens, and the outreach and funding support provided by UNH's Farm to School program to entities wanting to enhance their agricultural connections in the area. The Lakes Region is growing and welcomes you to plant yourself down and join in!
Students at Laconia High School working in the garden
Make the Farm to School Connection
by Amanda Littleton
Starting the school year off with planting, harvesting through the holidays, ushering in the spring with fresh greens and classes in the warmth of a high tunnel: these are but a few of the pleasures that students at Walpole Middle School will be able to enjoy in the future. This past spring, thanks to a partnership with the Hooper Institute and funding from the Cheshire County Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), staff at the Walpole Middle School erected a high tunnel just outside the door of their cafeteria. Students and their families participated in the planning and construction through June and the sowing of seeds in August. The school hopes to grow greens and other cold hearty varieties through the winter. School cafeteria staff will have the opportunity to prepare and serve the bounty, and teachers will be able to utilize the year-round outdoor learning site for plant and soil biology lessons, math, culture and historical studies, and so much more. Eloise Clark, Director of the Hooper Institute, spearheaded the initiative to build a high tunnel at the school. She is working in partnership with guidance counselor Glenn Stan and principal Sam Jacobs. In her grant application for a high tunnel Clark shared that “a high tunnel at the middle school will provide an opportunity for the next step in securing healthy food for our student population during the winter months. Students will be empowered by maintaining sustainable growing practices. Their efforts will demonstrate that healthy diets can be achieved, to their families and the community at large.”
If your school doesn’t have a high tunnel but you would still like to see the students benefit from nutritious, locally grown food check out Monadnock Menus. This program allows schools to buy directly from local farms. Schools can check out the e-commerce site to see what is in season and order a weekly delivery from one easy-to-buy location.
News from the North Country
By Julie Moran
Even before it was popular, the local farmers in the northernmost part of New Hampshire were supplying local food to the schools, often for free or low cost, just because it was “the right thing to do” for our youth. For the past 5 years, several local farmers have banded together to supply local produce to restaurants, a hospital, and their local schools. First they just called or stopped in to get an order, then they progressed to an email system, and now they use an online ordering system, ncfcoop.com, where the orders are placed by the schools. Delivery is either by the farmer or the co-op, depending on when it is needed and when the co-op truck is delivering. Last spring, local schools ordered fiddleheads (for a wild taste testing), asparagus, spinach, lettuces, and free range eggs. This fall, they will focus on tomatoes, corn, cabbages, carrots, potatoes, beets, spicy greens, onions, and squashes. Taste tests of kohlrabi, leeks, and other unique items are increasingly met with interest. Contracts with The Abbey Group management company helped the local schools smooth over the USDA changes to school lunch menus last year.
In this tight knit community, it has been relatively easy to make the farm to school connection because people already know the farmers. The hard part has been convincing local school boards to fund the staff needed to prep the whole, fresh, unprocessed foods that provide true nutrition to the students. The new menus and grant funds are helping fuel the demand for local foods, but there is still much work needed to create a realistic school lunch price that reflects the price of real, unprocessed food. Meanwhile, the farms and schools remain committed to creating wholesome good food for the local children, and planning has begun to supply late summer and fall crops for the upcoming school year.
DoD Fresh in New Hampshire: What schools need to know
The fresh produce that schools receive with their commodity foods delivery is actually from the Department of Defense Fresh program. Our NH state administrator with surplus distribution chooses two fresh fruit and vegetables a month that are delivered along with the commodity foods. Regionally grown options are available through the program. Schools can use funds from the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program to purchase produce through the DoD Fresh program. Schools have the authority to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from DoD Fresh with both special and general assistance funds. For more information:
USDA DoD Fresh fact sheet
DoD Fresh in New Hampshire