“How’d we end up getting this fancy lettuce? This stuff is good!” exclaimed a Posen High School student walking through the cafeteria line one day.
I was lucky enough to have the Kitchen Manager, Sherry Romel, hear that statement and share it with me. Sherry and I first became acquainted because she’d heard Rogers City Schools bragging about their Hoophouses for Health connection with our farm (Presque Isle Farm) and all the fantastic produce they were getting for free for the kids. Hoophouses for Health is a collaboration between the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (MSU CRFS) and the Michigan State University Department of Horticulture. The program is designed to increase access to Good Food for vulnerable families while at the same time expanding the local food infrastructure and season extension capacity of Michigan farmers.
After Sherry heard about the possibility of $15,000 in free fresh produce delivered to her kitchen over five years, she gave me a call and we set up a meeting. She wanted to make certain that she wasn’t missing some catch; it seemed a little too good to be true. But, lo and behold, we’re into year two of almost weekly deliveries from August-December and April-June.
In getting to know Sherry and Posen Schools through these deliveries, it became evident that they were also eligible to receive other grant funding with the help of Taste the Local Difference. Posen Consolidated Schools just secured $2,500 in grant funds to help with upgrading their cafeteria with a new salad bar and photos of the local farm where they get their produce to jazz up the cafeteria walls. TLD collaborated with the Center for Disease Control to bring this Building Healthy Communities (BHC) funding to the region. The overall goal of the grant is to “increase the availability of healthy food options in vending, concession, cafeterias and congregate meal sites throughout communities in northern Michigan.” In the long term, the objective is to lower the incidence of chronic disease. Giving the kids healthy, delicious food and connecting them to where it comes from is an added bonus!