A program to teach students good nutrition, and explain that their food doesn’t just come from a grocery store shelf, has been going on throughout October at Hillsboro Elementary School. Food Service Director Jessica Walker said it is National Farm to School Month with Friday being “Dairy Day.”
As part of Dairy Day, she said all the students enjoyed free ice cream and were not required to clean their plates or finish what was packed for lunch to get it.
The educational program came about roughly three years ago through The Great American Apple Crunch, Walker said. After calling Karnes Orchard near Hillsboro and requesting 2,000 apples, the concept expanded in subsequent years to include other local farms to not only encourage students to eat better, but to show them where the food on their plate actually comes from.
“Last year, we expanded out and bought a beef cow from Hatton Farms out of Samantha,” Walker said, adding that they took it to Hunter Meats near Marshall for processing so students could enjoy fresh local hamburger.
Other local farms the school has used included Walker’s Farm to Fork for pork and beef, Happy Hogs Premium Pork, Grass Powered Poultry & Meats and for Friday’s free ice cream, Starlite Grain and Dairy near Marshall.
“Most of the food our students enjoy comes from neighborhood farms, but no one really knows that,” she said. “It’s just good education and that’s why we do Farm to School, because we want the kids to know the food they’re getting is probably coming from next door.”
While good nutrition is paramount in any school lunch program, the educational aspect wasn’t missed by Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis, who traded in his sports jacket and neck tie for a slipover made to look like a dairy cow to help hand out free ice cream to students.
“It’s a great thing for our local farm community,” Davis said. “We’re promoting their products and it’s great for the kids as well to get them excited about eating healthy, and also educating them that what is on their dinner table didn’t just come from a shelf at Kroger, it came from a farm that they may live next door to.”
Nicole Shawhan, an aide at the elementary school whose family owns and operates Starlite Grain and Dairy Farm, said that earlier in the month students were served chicken and noodles, with the chicken coming from Grass Powered Poultry & Meats of Hillsboro.
On Oct. 9, students enjoyed biscuits and sausage gravy, with pork raised by Happy Hogs Premium Pork of Hillsboro.
She said that fresh apples have been available all month long, and on Oct. 10 the school celebrated the Great American Apple Crunch with apples grown at Karnes Apple Orchard.
On Oct. 16, spaghetti with meat sauce was on the menu courtesy of beef raised by J-M Cattle Company of Hillsboro, she said, with Friday seeing Starlite Grain and Dairy provide free ice cream in four flavors to promote the dairy aspect of farming.
Farm-fresh hamburgers raised by Walker’s Farm to Fork of Hillsboro will be served on Oct. 30 to round out the month.
Hillsboro Elementary School also participates in a program called “Fuel-Up to Play 60,” which Walker described as an in-school health and wellness program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The program puts forth various challenges that encourage both staff and students to make healthy choices and stay active at least one hour every day.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.