Feed Our Future Comes to Our Region for a Big Farm to School Month Kickoff!
Four local school districts piloted Feed Our Future’s Local Menu Takeover, feeding students an estimated 12,000 servings of local ingredients in school meals across the region during the first week of October. The Takeover was a coordinated effort to celebrate National Farm to School Month, which raises awareness about connections between children, local food, and agriculture. We selected four districts to participate in our region's pilot: Campbell County Schools, Cincinnati Public Schools, Milford Exempted Village Schools, and West Clermont Local School District.
Through the program, we asked districts to serve items from a selection of seven school nutrition standard-approved concepts (foodservice speak for dishes) featuring ingredients like produce, eggs, and dairy products sourced from farms in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. There were two breakfast options, three entrees, and two desserts.
Building on the Model
The Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council sub-awarded funds from our USDA Farm to School Implementation grant to participating districts to pilot this program, which originally launched in Northeast Ohio during the 2020-2021 school year. Feed Our Future created pre-planned, all-local menu concepts where the meal ingredients served to children were grown, raised, or processed in Ohio. The program proved that procuring local foods can be done, even in the unpredictable conditions of COVID-19 precautions and supply chain disruption. Feed Our Future provided school foodservice teams with turn-key solutions necessary to create the menu and market the concepts to their staff, students, families, and communities.
Philosophy of Flexibility
Ease and flexibility are core tenets of this program. Our approach is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to procuring “all-local,” knowing that every dollar spent toward local food benefits our regional food system and students.
We saw a prime example of how that flexibility pays off at West Clermont and Milford schools, which chose the Peachy Keen Dessert recipe. When it became clear that local peach season would end a few weeks before the launch, these schools chose to highlight pears and apples, instead of peaches, as a base for Dough Go’s cookie crumble. Dough Go’s is a small, woman-owned company in Canton, Ohio, that makes all nut-free items from Ohio farms. The two school orders alone accounted for over $6,000 in new sales for this small company! If school foodservice teams weren't adaptable, they might have missed that opportunity for a double win, which ended up being to the benefit of the local food economy and of their students.
Cincinnati Public Schools regularly sources local ingredients for their salad bars. Local Menu Takeover week saw them supercharging their local offerings, serving between four and six local produce items every day. Special features included corn cobettes and locally made JP Salsa from a small, minority-owned business in Cincinnati.
As foodservice staff passed out the Feed Our Future farmer trading cards, which highlight the producers who grew ingredients in the meals, a student asked, “Wait, there are farms in Ohio?” This question opened up a great conversation about where our food comes from and what we can grow in our region, allowing education to flow into the lunch hour. Local food procurement made it possible!
Continuing the Takeover
Participants agreed to serve four local meal concepts throughout the school year. Some districts completed all four meals within the month of October for Farm to School month, while others preferred the flexibility of serving new items throughout the year. Recipients in this pilot will serve as Greater Cincinnati Region Feed Our Future benchmark schools and mentor other districts, continuing collaboration to inspire innovation around the Farm to School program in the future.
Several regional news outlets picked up the exciting story of the Local Menu Takeover, including Soapbox Media!
The program was even featured in the School Nutrition Association daily SmartBrief—a national newsletter for foodservice professionals.
Learn more about the program at feedourfuture.org and take the pledge to help spread the mission of inspiring young minds to make healthy food choices. In return for taking the pledge, you will receive educational newsletters and resources that help you find fresh, local foods and communicate their benefits.
This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.