Midwest office leads farm to school meeting, tour

Elizabeth Sloan, principal of Hillis Elementary School in Des Moines, tells a group of Iowa Nutrition Network partners about the school's new teaching kitchen, Cora's Cupboard, where students learn to process and cook fresh vegetables from the school garden. Sloan credits a FoodCorps service member with the inspiration for creating the kitchen.
Elizabeth Sloan, principal of Hillis Elementary School in Des Moines, shows a group of Iowa Nutrition Network partners the school’s new teaching kitchen, Cora’s Cupboard, where students learn to process and cook fresh vegetables from the school garden. Sloan credits a FoodCorps service member with the inspiration for creating the kitchen.

The Midwest Regional NCAT office coordinated a meeting and tour for Iowa Nutrition Network (INN) leaders and partners August 27 to highlight farm to school efforts in Central Iowa. The group of about 20 had a chance to see first-hand how one model school is integrating gardening, chickens and a new teaching kitchen with its curriculum to engage students and families and improve student health.

The INN meeting was sponsored by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and hosted by Hillis Elementary School Principal Elizabeth Sloan.  NCAT Midwest Director Ann Y. Robinson and FoodCorps Iowa Fellow Marlie Wilson discussed farm to school and FoodCorps efforts in Iowa and the region. Lyn Jenkins, nutrition education specialist with the Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) and DMPS FoodCorps Site Supervisor updated the group on Pick a Better Snack plans for the coming school year. Adam Hammes, with Eat Greater Des Moines Garden for Every School campaign, also provided a presentation.

NCAT’s FoodCorps Iowa team has worked with Hillis since FoodCorps’ first year in Iowa, helping develop the school garden and EcoHour programming, which revolves around nutrition education and sustainability projects. Hillis has created a unique teaching kitchen, Cora’s Cupboard, thanks to support from Charles Gabus Ford. Principal Sloan credits the original idea for the kitchen to one of FoodCorps Iowa’s first service members, Mauricio Rosas-Alvarez, who had experience as a chef.

Hillis Elementary students were the first in the Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) to taste-test an Iowa sweet corn product, which will be served district-wide this fall, according to Sandy Huisman, DMPS Director of Nutrition Services, who attended the August 27 meeting. The move will benefit school nutrition and Iowa farmers. The quick-frozen corn, sourced by Iowa Choice Harvest, will have lower rates of sodium and sugar than the previous product served by DMPS.

For other recent news of related farm to school efforts in Central Iowa, view:

Tomorrow Plan TPX blog post: NCAT’s FoodCorps in Des Moines http://www.thetomorrowplan.com/exchange/foodcorps-in-des-moines/

Agribusiness Report – WHO-TV: Schools Sourcing Local Food http://whotv.com/2014/08/11/agribusiness-public-schools-sourcing-in-local-food/

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