Potato chips or peaches? When faced with the choice, many elementary school students will often choose the former over the latter. The Salt Lake County Farm to School program is working to change that.
On Sept. 10, Majestic Elementary welcomed visitors from the county, local farms and Jordan School District who provided fresh produce to the students at Farm Field Days. The students filed into the gym where they filled their arms, pockets and tummies with fruits and vegetables from local growers.
“This is the first year doing Farm Days as part of Salt Lake County’s Farm to School program,” said Julie Peck-Dabling, Salt Lake County manager of urban farming. This event reflects the county’s efforts in getting more locally grown food into school lunches on a regular basis.
While this is the first year of partnership with the county, Jordan School District officials have been working for four years to get local produce into their students’ lunches.
“We have our own Farm to School program, so we have a day each week where we get local foods,” Principal Todd Theobald said. “It’s been a great partnership with local growers because our kids can experience fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown.”
Because of previous efforts in bringing local food to its lunchroom, Majestic Elementary was one of the schools recently included as a recipient of a Cancer Control Grant from the Utah State Department of Health. Majestic, Columbia and Heartland Elementary Schools all received a portion of the grant in order to join forces with local urban farming programs.
“As part of the grant, we do farm field days as well as help nutrition directors connect to local farmers,” said Supreet Gill, Salt Lake County Farm to School manager.
Jana Cruz, Jordan School District’s nutrition services director, believes that it just makes sense for local growers to provide food for the students.
“Not only are we doing something for our local community, but we have felt in Jordan that it’s a way to increase kids’ awareness that healthy choices can be wonderful,” Cruz said. “There’s nothing bad about it; it’s just all good.”
During the growing season, local growers bring fresh produce to the school district warehouse every week that is then distributed throughout the district.
“For some of our families, we recognize that fresh produce is some of the most expensive stuff to purchase,” Theobald said. “But it’s the most nutrient dense and the best thing they can eat. It comes from farm to table, and it’s delicious.”