New school meal standards set by the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act have been getting a lot of press lately. To provide healthier meals, the bill upped requirements for servings of whole grains and legumes. Farm to School programs are one way to meet this requirement while taking advantage of healthy, regionally grown products and supporting local farmers. IATP has come up with a report to help schools add regionally grown grains and legumes to your Farm to School repertoire.
Best practices for using regionally grown grains and legumes in school meals
The report brings together a compilation of advice from districts that have started sourcing regionally grown grains and legumes. Every district is different, but the importance of finding good partners was a common theme from successful districts, as was advice to build open communication with vendors, who can help explore mutually beneficial strategies for meeting district procurement needs. Districts also gave feedback on the favorable and unfavorable impact on labor costs that can come from using regionally sourced products.
On the farm and at the processor: Production and processing of grains and pulses
Where are grains and pulses grown and how do they get from the farm to the fork? The new report provides an overview of how grains and pulses grow and the supply chains that can bring them to your table. The supply chain for grains and pulses can be more complicated than those of fruits and veggies, and it helps to understand this part of the food system as you look for your own regionally grown grains and pulses. We found that it can be difficult to get solid information on who grew available grains and pulses, but demand for more transparency may be opening the door for improved access in the K-12 marketplace to location-identified grain and pulse products.
Grains and legumes: Lessons from the School Food FOCUS Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab
The Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab operated by School Food FOCUS also catalyzed seven large, urban Midwestern districts to explore the opportunities and challenges of sourcing regionally grown grains and legumes on a larger scale. Regional Learning Lab staff, district foodservice directors and the districts’ community partners conducted research into the potential for the regionally grown grains and legumes, primarily through one-on-one dialogue with a variety of existing and potential suppliers and food manufacturers.
Increasing grains and legume portions in school lunch programs often requires more resources for schools. This year, Congress will pass a new Child Nutrition Act to set a path for school lunches for the next five years, determining whether the new healthy standards are maintained and how much support schools get to meet these requirements and implement Farm to School programs. Check back here for more information as the Child Nutrition Act debate unfolds.