Minnesota schools buying more local food

French schoolchildren get an hors d'oeuvre, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert (damn!) with every meal. Right now, we'll just have to be satisfied with more local produce.

More and more Minnesota schools are buying local according to a recent survey conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Minnesota School Nutrition Association More than 80 percent of the districts that responded said they bought Minnesota-grown food in 2009. The number of districts that said they were buying local -- 69 -- is more double the number from 2008.

Some more tidbits:

  • The most commonly used local foods were apples, potatoes, peppers, winter squash, sweet corn and tomatoes. The majority of respondents (ranging from 67 percent of respondents for winter squash to 94 percent for sweetcorn) rated their experience with these foods as "very successful."
  • The top barriers to using more local foods were "extra labor/prep time," "pricing/fitting local food into budgets," and "difficulty finding farmers to purchase from directly."
  • Among districts currently engaged in farm to school, 76 percent expect to expand their farm to school programs in the 2010/11. None indicated that they plan to reduce their farm to school activities in the upcoming school year.

It's heartening news, for sure, but buying local is just one component of moving toward overall healthier eats for kids. Let's just say there's still much to be desired. Take, for example, USA Today's recent investigation that uncovered that fast food chains have tougher standards for their food than the U.S. Department of Agriculture has for public schools.

Closer to home, local blog Simple, Good and Tasty recently penned "An Open Letter to Our Children: We're Sorry About School Lunch," inspired by chatting with some local sixth graders about their less than positive experiences with their school lunches.

To be sure, though, some districts are making concerted efforts to bring healthier options to kids. St. Paul Public Schools got a shoutout last summer for axeing junk food and making lots of stuff from scratch.

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