Farm to School Initiative

We have all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.”

If you’re eating a pork chop purchased at a big–box national grocery store, you could very well be a pork chop pumped with sub–therapeutic antibiotics and growth-promoting hormones.

If you’re eating a pork chop served at the University of Minnesota–Morris, you are simply eating a good, old-fashioned pork chop.

University of Minnesota–Morris is a founding partner of the Pride of the Prairie local food initiative, one of many farm–to–school initiatives widely supported by Minnesota Campus Compact, a nonprofit coalition of 50 college and university presidents in Minnesota committed to strengthening communities through campus–community partnerships and education for informed and active citizenship.

Minnesota Campus Compact became involved in the local food movement to mobilize human, financial, and material resources on campuses.

“The ultimate goal is vibrant, healthy communities,” explains John Hamerlinck, senior program director. “Our goal is to work with campuses that are trying to support local producers.”

Minnesota Campus Compact assists those who would like to help with the movement, helps generate a small amount of grants, promotes campuses that are actively working toward supporting local food producers, and convenes discussions among students, organizations and higher education leaders.

Last October they hosted a conference attended by over 100 academic leaders interested in looking at food as a vehicle for campuses to engage with communities; in July they sponsored a College and Local Foods Dialogue attended by local food activists, campus leaders and food service providers.

The process of getting more local products on school menus is challenging, Hamerlinck says.

“Getting more locally–produced food into the kitchens of institutions is more complex than simply matching vendors with buyers,” Hamerlinck comments. “In most cases, producers are selling directly to schools. This is usually the result of personal relationships being built between farmers and food service directors or chefs. In some cases, schools pick up the product. Sometimes the food is delivered directly by the producer. Sometimes the vendor is a small company or co-op.”

St. Olaf College is another school taking advantage of the local food movement. They source about 25 percent of their food from within a 150 mile radius of campus. Vendors selling directly to St. Olaf College include Six Point Berkshire in Cottonwood, Thousand Hills Cattle Company in Cannon Falls, Southeast Minnesota Food Network, and STOGROW, the St. Olaf student farm.

Six campuses in Wisconsin—UW–Superior, Northland College, UW–Lacrosse, UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and Beloit—are also buying some of the food for their dining services from local Wisconsin farms and co–ops as part of the College Food Project.

As a result of this initiative, the campus residence halls and convenience stores at UW–Madison now offer three items that come directly from Wisconsin farms: tortilla chips made from organic blue corn grown in Janesville, apples from Richland Center, and organic potatoes grown in Antigo.

College campuses aren’t the only ones who can make a difference. Consumers can buy locally grown food as well. It tastes better than food that has been shipped across the country (locally–grown produce is harvested at the height of ripeness), and strengthens the local economy. Consumers closer to their food source can find out so much more than a food label can ever reveal: Were pesticides and antibiotics used? Were working conditions safe? Did the farmer receive a living wage? It’s also better for the environment in that it reduces the energy used in packaging, shipping, distributing and retailing.

“People can find out where their food comes from and then decide if their food conflicts with their values,” Hamerlinck says.“The website www.foodroutes.org is a great place to start.”

People can also ask for locally produced meat, dairy, produce and grains, he says.

“Large wholesalers and retailers must understand the potential market out there. We need more local food in systems that supply all types of consumers.”

He also encourages people to ask local farmers to consider diversifying their production beyond corn and soybeans.

“The local food movement is really at a point where lots of opportunity exists on the supply side, but farmers are reluctant to convert acres from the big commodity crops without knowing that the market exists for other products,” Hamerlinck explains. “Many institutional buyers who would like to buy more local food have the capability to buy everything currently available, and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

For more information about Minnesota Campus Compact, please visit www.mncampuscompact.org.

 

Organic New York Strip Steak with Avocado Salsa

Excellent protein and healthful fats never tasted so good.
By Bea James

3 tbsp. Full Circle© Organic Olive Oil

2 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, divided

1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

6 (6 to 8 oz.) organic New York Strip Steaks

2 cups diced organic Roma tomatoes

4 tbsp. organic green onion, chopped

6 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

1 tsp. cumin

2 limes, juiced

1 tsp. chili powder

1 1/2 tbsp. honey

2 organic avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced

Preheat broiler or grill.
In a medium bowl, combine oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Add steaks to oil mixture; turn to coat. Let stand 10 minutes.

In separate medium bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, mint, lime juice, cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic, chili powder, honey, and avocado.

Broil or grill steaks until browned (3-5 minutes); turn and grill other side until instant read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145° F for medium rare ( 3-5 minutes more).

Arrange steaks on plates and generously top with salsa.

Amount: 6 servings
Tip: Serve with Lunds & Byerly’s Organic Blue Corn and Flax Tortilla Chips.

Recipe provided by Lunds and Byerly’s

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