Last month, University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development (FD) was chosen to host a delegation of officials from Guatemala who want to learn how to improve school food programs. The delegation will visit the United States for two weeks this September.
With the support of Extension’s Director of Global Initiatives John Vreyens, FD’s Director of Programs Trish Olson, myself, and many others collaborated to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service with a proposed schedule of visits, meetings, demonstrations, and training opportunities in both Washington, D.C. and Minnesota. FD’s application was accepted in late July, and we are now in the process of confirming the schedule of events.
The delegation from Guatemala is visiting through a USDA-sponsored program called the Cochran Fellowship Program. Since 1984, the U.S. Congress has made funds available to the Cochran Program for training agriculture professionals from middle-income countries and countries with emerging markets.
|Cochran Alumni Joseph Mugumbate describes an innovative method for cultivating potatoes.|
Photo: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service / South Africa: Cochran Success Story
Most of these fellowships focus on improving agriculture practices. The delegation from Guatemala, however, wants to learn about nutrition standards, procurement, food safety and storage, school meal implementation and operations, monitoring and compliance, and best and innovative practices. The focus on school food programs is a niche that FD is well-poised to support through the work of our Health and Nutrition (H&N) team and its strong partnerships.
H&N’s school nutrition work is recognized at both the state and national levels for its award-winning training and support of school foodservice professionals to assist in implementation of national standards and improve the health of school meals (see Workshops for School Foodservice Professionals and Nutrition Building Blocks for Great Trays®). We have strong partnerships with USDA and state-level partners, as well as schools and related organizations and stakeholders.
The proposed schedule includes visits in Washington, D.C. with USDA’s Economic Research Service and Food and Nutrition Service, as well as the School Nutrition Association (SNA). In Minnesota, the delegation will spend time with the Minnesota departments of education, health, and agriculture; the Minnesota chapter of SNA; the Farm to School Leadership Team; and the School Nutrition Training Coalition. The delegation will also visit schools offering unique school food programs, commercial food distributors, and a food hub.
|What is a food hub? Read Extension Helps Fresh Connect Food Hub Grow.|
The visitors will get a taste of H&N’s school foodservice training programs, as well as the ways SNAP-Ed staff partners with schools to improve the school food environment. The delegates will also have time to experience some of Minnesota’s natural and built treasures, possibly including Itasca State Park, the Mall of America, and Schell’s Brewery.
We look forward to supporting the delegation in reaching their objective of improving Guatemalan school food programs through an engaging and informative schedule of site visits, demonstrations, and presentations.
Questions about the visit? Interested in participating? Please feel free to contact me.