In Red Lodge, we celebrated National Farm to School Month with a delicious Montana Made Meal! The purpose of the meal is to source most of the ingredients from within Montana; in fact, much of the meal was sourced from within 50 miles of Red Lodge! Lunch included carrot sticks and pickled beets from Wholesome Foods in Bridger, beef from Stillwater Packing in Columbus, and pumpkin bars with pumpkin from Laurel Farmer’s Market. Food Service Director Amy Russell coordinated the incredible meal, and is known for regularly incorporating local food into school lunches — whether the ingredients are from local producers or fresh produce from the youth garden.
While students were excited to learn that the food they were eating was locally sourced, 60 years ago in Montana, eating locally was not such a novel idea. In 1950, 70% of food Montanans ate was grown and processed in Montana. Today, that number is 10%. Most of the food grown in Montana is exported, while Montanans eat food imported from elsewhere. Although Montana does have limited growing seasons, there is still so much food being produced here! For example, local produce and meat is abundant at the local farmer’s market in Red Lodge. My hope is that through FoodCorps, we can increase access to local food in school lunch rooms as well!
Adults are not the only ones who think we should be eating locally — students do too. I recently spoke with a few high school agriculture classes on the importance of eating locally. According to the students, eating locally:
- Boosts the local economy
- Is good for the environment
- Helps people better understand the work that goes into growing food
It is so exciting to see students, food service staff, teachers, school staff, and community members all on board with supporting local foods in our schools!