From locally-raised yak burgers to school garden-grown zucchini, Colorado schools kicked off the school year with farm to school gusto! On September 14, an estimated 550 schools reaching 160,700 students celebrated Colorado Proud School Meal Day by featuring fresh, locally-grown food in their school meals. The annual event is organized by Colorado Proud, a program to promote local foods through the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Students from the public Denver Green School celebrated with special guests including Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Katie Wilson and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Guests joined students for a delicious school lunch featuring homegrown zucchini, onions, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Students voiced their excitement for the fresh food, and guests headed outside to the school farm where the produce was grown.
In partnership with the local nonprofit organization Sprout City Farms, the Green School features a one-acre farm on school grounds where students help plant, tend and harvest fresh food. The farm provides fresh produce to the school lunchroom through its innovative Farm to Cafeteria program. Produce from the farm also benefits the community through a neighborhood Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, weekly farm stand, cooking classes and donations to local food pantries. In 2012, Denver Public Schools received a USDA Farm to School Grant to develop standards-based garden curriculum, create and test new farm to school recipes and bolster on-farm food safety trainings.
The Denver Green School wasn’t the only school that celebrated Colorado Proud School Meal Day with a bang – the Ridgway School District in Ridgway served locally-raised yak burgers! The district’s food service manager, Marilyn Younie, connected with Hawk N’ Yak Ranch located across the street from the school. Students and faculty were pleasantly surprised by the tender, lean, flavorful yak burgers served alongside roasted potatoes from the San Luis Valley and peaches from Conner Orchard in Hochkiss.
From the front range of the Rocky Mountains to the Uncompahgre Valley, Colorado schools have Colorado Proud School Meal Day under their belts and look forward to celebrating National Farm to School Month!