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Tiger Talk: Farm to School feeds students

Submitted Photo Jim Chamberlin makes one final delivery from the school garden to the school dining hall.

Fall harvest is underway. As part of October National Farm-to-School Month, I would like to spotlight what we have brought in for students at Pine River-Backus Schools recently.

Working with the school garden, community garden, farmers markets and local growers, we have been able to expose students to a wide variety of high quality, heirloom variety vegetables that they otherwise may not have had an opportunity to try.

Having a variety of fresh vegetables provides our cooks a chance to get creative. Relationships with students are built through taste-testing and communicating about new recipes. The use of herbs has helped to "lower the sodium without losing flavor."

The amounts of vegetables I am able to use has increased over the years. In the 2016-17 school year I was able to use 700 pounds of potatoes - German, golds and purple varieties - and 600 pounds of heirloom squash varieties. I hope to use more this year!

Tomatoes, cabbage, kale, onions and peppers are all regulars on my weekly fall deliveries. Rhubarb sauce and cucumber salad have been big hits. Last week a student remark was, "The pickles are good, but not as good as my grandma's!" How special is that?

Roasted summer squash and zucchini was served recently. Not all students liked it, but they did try it. Today we have corn on the cob. Green beans will be on the menu tomorrow.

My goal is to continue to bring in as much local produce as I can and to continue to speak with students about the importance of eating local organic fruits and vegetables.

Everyone's goal to get high quality, flavorful, heirloom variety vegetables to students is happening. We are raising awareness of the importance of eating local, organic produce. Students are more interested in eating vegetables when you can talk about where it was grown. Local does make a difference!