It’s sweet-corn season in Iowa, and with the school year about to commence, it would seem that the easiest way to get ears on the lunch trays of students would be to truck the harvest straight to the cafeteria. Well, kids who attend Des Moines Public Schools can expect more local corn on the menu this year, but it’s not coming to them straight from the stalk. The district’s solution might seem counterintuitive at first: To serve more local food, it’s working with a processing plant.
It’s the next natural step in what has been Des Moines Public School’s commitment to get students more intimately involved with their food systems. Twenty-seven of the public schools there have been working with Food Corps to bring gardens and chickens, for example, onto campuses. One school received funds to build a small kitchen for demonstrations, where teachers can integrate food into their lesson plans on fractions. Word of a composting program is in the hallways. The district also participates in School Food FOCUS, a national collaborative funded largely by the W.K. Kellogg and Kresge foundations to make sure school lunches are healthy, regionally sourced, and sustainable.