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4 Steps to Host a Winning Farm to School Event with Highbush Blueberries

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Guest post by the US Highbush Blueberry Council

Fresh or frozen highbush blueberries aren’t just a nutritious and delicious menu staple beloved by students – they’re also a bite-sized bit of bluetiful inspiration for your next farm to school event. Whether you’re thinking of hosting a promotion for National Farm to School Month or are looking for year-round inspiration, these little blue dynamos are a cafeteria favorite, perfect for your next nutrition event. Here are four easy steps to get you started:

1. Get Inspired
Wondering where to start when planning a farm to school event? Draw inspiration from these K-12 case studies featuring three districts that have hosted successful promotions by celebrating fresh and frozen highbush blueberries all year-round:

  • Carrollton City School District, Georgia – Hosted a “Highbush Blueberry Bonanza Week” complete with a blueberry-themed food truck, nutrition education sessions and a highbush blueberry cooking class. The results: An 11% increase in lunch participation at junior high school; and 5% average increase in breakfast participation across elementary, middle and high school.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, North Carolina – Hosted a “Highbush Blueberry Day” to bring highbush blueberry education to the classroom, followed by student taste test of a new menu item: Highbush Blueberry Breakfast Bark. The results: 85% of students voted that the recipe was “yummy!”
  • Sebree Elementary School, Kentucky – During last year’s National Farm to School Month, in partnership with NFSN and USHBC, Webster County Schools won a sweepstakes for a “Build-Your-Own Highbush Blueberry Day.” This was extended to a full week of highbush blueberry fun, including a blueberry nutrition education session, a blueberry-themed art contest and blueberry taste tests for two recipes: a Blueberry Smoothie and a Blueberry Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette. The results: a 12% increase in breakfast participation that week. 


2. Learn from Others
It comes as no surprise that pulling off successful promotions like the ones above are a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Luckily, you can hear from three rockstar school nutrition pros directly in National Farm to School Network’s latest recorded webinar: Bring Farm to School to Life with Highbush Blueberries. The expert panel shared actionable advice on bringing a farm to school promotion to life, with some tips and tricks for planning and execution to make nutrition (and blueberries!) fun for all. 

3. Download the Playbook
Now feeling ready to take on an event of your own? Download the Highbush Blueberry Farm to School Playbook, your go-to digital resource to inspire your staff, excite your students, and celebrate with your community. The playbook is packed with menu inspiration, virtual farm tours, nutrition guides, kid-friendly activities and more – everything you need to bring highbush blueberries and nutrition to your students in a fun and engaging way. Plus, it’s free to view, download and print from home! 

4. Have Fun
Lastly, and most importantly, have FUN! These events are a fantastic way to engage with students and make them feel involved in their nutrition choices – in a way that’s approachable, memorable and interactive. Incorporate activities and games into your promotion to add an exciting element that will bring a smile to students and staff alike. These fun memories will incite future passions for healthy eating!

Don’t miss out on all the highbush blueberry fun this National Farm to School Month! With these easy steps, you’re ready to celebrate nutrition and serve up a smile with your students. For more positively bluetiful news, kid-friendly ideas and yummy menu inspiration, visit BlueberriesInSchools.com.

65 Free Farm to School Recipes From The Chef Ann Foundation

NFSN Staff Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Guest post by Sarah Flinn, Marketing Manager, Chef Ann Foundation

Chef Ann Cooper has been reforming school food for almost 20 years, and when recently asked what she’d do if she had a magic wand, her response was quick and to the point:

1. We need to feed kids—all kids should have access to healthy food at school every day.
2. We need to teach kids food literacy. 

“What is it that we do numerous times a day from the day we’re born to the day we die? It’s eat. It’s not trigonometry. But what do we test students on? We have to teach kids about healthy food and where it comes from.”

Why Farm to School?

We know that one of the best ways to teach kids about their food is to show them where it comes from. Through farm to school activities we aim to connect kids to local farms, farmers and food, and to let them see, smell and touch the fresh produce. But above all else, they need to taste it.

It’s great when schools have activities to teach kids about local produce, but we’ve found that those learning experiences in the lunchroom are even more impactful when the students later see those same ingredients incorporated into their school meals. 

Free Farm to School Recipes

For many schools, a barrier to serving local food is a lack of recipes that utilize farm-fresh ingredients. That’s why we’re so excited to provide 65 new Farm to School recipes on The Lunch Box! Not only do these recipes credit towards the USDA meal pattern, they’ve also been created and tested in a school kitchen, and are taste-taste approved by students. 

The recipes on The Lunch Box are consistently the most utilized resources that the Chef Ann Foundation provides to schools and we’re not surprised why:

  • All of our recipes (there are over 300 of them) are free for anyone to download at any time. 
  • The recipes can be scaled for any number of servings, taking the guesswork out of purchasing.
  • Each recipe also includes the full cost analysis for your specific school or district’s size in addition to the cost per serving—making it easier to plan your budget while incorporating these new recipes into your menu cycle. 
Bringing Farm to School to Pre-K

For the schools that are serving lunch to our youngest kids, the pre-kindergarteners, recipes have been even harder to come by, but our farm to school recipes are among the first recipes that credit towards the new Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that go into effect this fall. We’ve also put together a complete 6-week menu cycle for Pre-K (and all other grade levels). 

Removing the Barriers to Scratch-Cooking

When you get down to the root of everything that we do at the Chef Ann Foundation, it all leads back to helping as many schools as possible serve healthy, scratch-cooked food to all of our students, regardless of their age or family’s income. When we can help schools with the recipes they need to do that and encourage schools to use their buying power to boost their local economy and decrease their carbon footprint at the same time, everyone wins. 

One last thing, did we mention that these meals are really delicious? Doesn’t Chicken Piccata, Tuna with Lemon and Dill, or a Black Bean Empanada sound more appealing than a frozen burrito or chicken nuggets? You can find all of the new farm to school recipes for free here.

Kentucky’s Junior Chef Tournament Features Local Food & Team Spirit

NFSN Staff Tuesday, September 16, 2014

(Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

Looking sharp in maroon and silver football jerseys, and working together as a team, the Owen County High School Rebels won a state championship Friday. But the sport wasn't football.

Owen County's "Cuisine Rebels," sporting aprons made out of old football jerseys, won the second annual Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Tournament during the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. Their winning recipe, potato-crusted bacon cheeseburger quiche, used 13 Kentucky Proud ingredients, which were grown or made in Kentucky. Scroll down for the recipe!

Junior Chef is a program that encourages high school students to learn how to cook by using local ingredients to prepare healthy meals while at the same time teaching students about agriculture, marketing, organization, teamwork and community involvement.

The five members of the winning team - Hailey Chappell, Carley Bennett, Kadee Carter, Cannon Goodrich, and Morgan Woodyard - were each offered $6,000 scholarship from Sullivan University. The team also received $600 from John Wiley & Sons publishing company, along with free textbooks for team members attending Sullivan's culinary program.

In total, 61 teen chefs from 14 Kentucky high schools faced off in this year’s competition. Junior Chef tournament organizer Tina Garland, coordinator of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Farm to School Program and NFSN's Kentucky state lead, said the number of schools and students who participated in this year’s statewide competition, now in its second year, was up from the previous year.

The Kentucky Farm to School Program connects local farmers to school districts to make fresh Kentucky Proud foods available to Kentucky children. Participating Kentucky school districts spent an estimated $468,000 on local foods during the 2012-13 school year. A total of 84 school districts are members of the Kentucky Proud program, which helps Kentucky farmers market their products to their local communities.

Want to taste the winning dish? The Owen County “Cuisine Rebels” have shared their potato-crusted bacon cheeseburger quiche recipe - see below! 

Hailey Chappell accepts the Most Outstanding Chef award from David H. Dodd, executive director of the National Center for Hospitality Studies at Sullivan University. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

Potato Crusted Bacon Cheeseburger Quiche
Winning Kentucky Farm to School Junior Chef State Tournament Recipe
“Cuisine Rebels,” Owen County High School

Crust
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp Promise margarine
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Filling
2 slices bacon
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow squash, shredded
1/2 cup zucchini, shredded
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1/3 cup sour cream

Directions
Heat oven to 350°. 

Place diced potato in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Boil potatoes until soft. Drain all but 1/4 cup of liquid. Add margarine, salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes to a smooth consistency. Spoon roughly 2 Tbsp. of potatoes into bottom of greased jumbo muffin tin. Press to the bottom and slightly up the sides to form a crust. Bake potato crusts for 20 minutes or until they start to turn a golden brown.

In a medium skillet, prepare the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside. In the same skillet, brown ground beef, onion, and peppers. Cook until no pink remains. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine remaining vegetables with ground beef mixture. Add bacon and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Toss to mix well. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs, salt, pepper, and milk until well combined.

When crusts come out of the oven, fill each evenly with egg mixture, then evenly divide the meat mixture and top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown. Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve.

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