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Locally-grown foods used at Verndale Public School

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 07/19/2013 8:47 AM

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VERNDALE — Donna Anderson likes to talk to Verndale Public School students as they come through the lunch line.

The Extension community nutrition educator talks to them about many of the locally grown foods used in the school's meals throughout the year.

It's part of the Farm School program.

She took part in a recent "Farm to Cafeteria" field tour in Wadena County. The tour included the Verndale Public School food service facility and Gardens Gourmet, a Henning farm operated by Diane and Chuck Webb. The Webbs' are among the local producers providing food for the program.

Anderson introduces students to the farmers and their produce.

"We are increasing the knowledge of these students as to where their food comes from," she said. "I offer taste tests, which gives them a chance to try new foods. There is a strength of community coming together with the local farmers and the kids."

Verndale head cook Sue Johnson said students enjoy the fresh fruit. The school also offers individually prepared salads.

Parents also learn more about locally grown foods and nutrition, Anderson said.

The group talked about the need for students to visit farms and options to get local foods to schools.

Schools can take advantage of the wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits in the summer, said Susan DeBlieck, a community food systems educator with extension. Many schools are using vacuum sealers to store and freeze produce for use later in the season, she said.