Kids at M.E. Pearson school in KCK have been growing food at Splitlog Farm for two years now, and today for the first time, they harvested food for their school’s cafeteria.
The cafeteria connection was made possible by Rachael McGinnis Millsap, director of our Farm to School Academy. On a visit to Splitlog Farm earlier in the year, she saw the school across the street and talked with Steve Curtis of Community Housing Wyandotte County, who manages the farm, about getting produce into the cafeteria.
“It was something we both had been working toward,” Millsap said. Curtis had partnered with the school since the farm was created and was eager to work with the food service staff.
Earlier in the year, Millsap had surveyed public schools to find out which cafeterias were best equipped to receive and prepare garden-grown produce. As it turned out, M.E. Pearson was in the top ten for its district. And since Millsap had been working with Josh Mathiasmeier, Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools’ director of nutritional services on culinary training and Tasting Local events at other schools, it was an easy call to make.
He and food service staff at the school were enthusiastic. They explained to Millsap and Curtis how the produce would need to be washed and packaged, and even sent a team member over to help.
Preschoolers from Mary Linton’s class picked the lettuce and turnips they had planted several weeks before, then washed, bagged, weighed and delivered their harvest to the school cafeteria where it was served for lunch.
“It was definitely a collaboration between KC Healthy Kids, the community managing the garden, and nutritional services staff to get it organized, to get kids over there, to safely wash and chop [the produce] so it could be served in the cafeteria that day,” said Mathiasmeier, who wasn’t at all concerned about having preschoolers handling food. “As long as they follow basic food safety practices like hand washing – there’s not an issue,” he said.
“This little corner of KCK has all the makings of an incredible farm to school program,” Millsap said. “The farm, with its orchards, greenhouse and hoop house, is growing a lot of food, The staff and teachers value the farm and make sure their students have time to visit, and the food service director and staff are engaged.”