WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University will join state and
local officials, educators, nutritionists and business owners for an event Oct.
24 at Mintonye Elementary School in Tippecanoe County to promote partnerships
between local food producers and schools.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is scheduled to participate in the
Indiana Farm to School event, which will coincide with National Food Day and
will include student presentations, drawings, artwork and other activities
centering on the state program.
A grant benefiting Indiana Farm to School efforts also will
be announced at the event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mintonye
Elementary, a part of the Tippecanoe School Corp., is located at 2000 W. 800 S.
off Indiana 231 south of Lafayette.
“This exciting new program for Indiana encourages healthy
lifestyles in our children, improving their chances for success in the
classroom,” said Lisa Kirkham, project coordinator for K-12 programs at the
Discovery Learning Research Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park. “It also goes
beyond the classroom, supporting our local producers and providing a boost for
our local economies and creating jobs.”
Mintonye principal Rob Skaggs and Lori Shofroth, director of
the food service program for Tippecanoe School Corp., are helping Kirkham and
the Purdue team organize the event. Representatives of the Indiana departments
of Education, Health and Agriculture, as well as Lafayette bakery Great Harvest,
Wea Creek Orchard and La Scala restaurant will participate.
Jennifer Dennis, an associate professor of horticulture at
Purdue, is leading efforts to develop a program for expanding Farm to School
connections throughout Indiana. With a specialty crop block grant from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Katie Clayton, a food science extension outreach
specialist at Purdue, is working to promote new connections between Indiana
agriculture producers and schools.
Jill Pritchard, program manager of Diversified Ag and
Entrepreneurial Development for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture,
said Indiana Farm to School also opens the eyes of students to career choices
they might not have considered.
“The USDA reports that the average age of a U.S. farmer
today is 52 and that opportunities exist for growers of not just corn and
soybeans, but specialty crops like pumpkins and grapes, not to mention
agritourism,” she said. “Indiana Farm to School presents a forum for
highlighting agriculture as a viable career option, connecting our growers with
Farm to School is designed to connect Indiana K-12 schools
and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school
cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and
nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional
Kirkham, who also serves as co-chair of the Indiana Farm to
School Farm education committee, said the program offers guidance for schools on
how to include local products in school meals — breakfast, lunch, classrooms and
after-school snacks and in taste tests.
Farm to Food also provides an educational component,
encouraging schools to introduce food-related curriculum development and
experiential learning opportunities through school gardens, farm tours, chefs in
the classroom, culinary activities, educational sessions for parents and
community members and visits to farmers’ markets.
From just a handful of programs in the late 1990s, Farm to
School now is operational in more than 10,000 schools spanning all 50 states. To
assist its efforts, the National Farm to School Network was founded in 2007
through a yearlong collaborative planning process engaging more than 30
organizations across the country.