By Samantha Traylor, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems
“There’s a certain level of pride that the kids have when it’s their product that comes to this end piece that we’re actually going to use.” Dan Gorman
Dan Gorman takes a unique approach to implementing local foods into the school food service programs that he oversees at Montague Area Public Schools and Whitehall District Schools. In addition to purchasing local foods to incorporate into meals, where some students might not notice the difference, Dan chose make farm to school a process that engages the students. The idea of having local foods in school meals always made sense to him, but Dan soon discovered that a farm to school program could really shine by making the right connections and forming a support system.
At Montague Area Public Schools a Career Tech Center is home to a Culinary Management program, among other vocational programs to help students can further their education and experiences. The center quickly got on board as a farm to school partner, and the students became true champions of the program. Students in the Culinary Management class were presented with a seasonal food (including a Cultivate Michigan featured food) and asked to develop a recipe that featured that food and could be prepared and served in the school meal program. The students were in charge of testing the recipes and narrowing down the options until they were left with just one winner. Then, they were tasked with preparing the dish at a scale to feed the entire district. One year later, Dan and the Culinary Management students have successfully served two different local foods to the district: potatoes last spring and winter squash in the fall.
Overall, the process of implementing a farm to school program in the Montague school district has been a relatively smooth one, which Dan believes is largely due to the allies that were identified when he first got started. His advice to people who want to follow in his footsteps? Know your limitations, and “just look for allies and ask for help.”
In March 2016, one district in each state received the “One in a Melon” award from the USDA Food & Nutrition Services Office; Montague Area Schools were honored as Michgan's winner! Read more about the award here.