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Farm to School: Getting Started: Get Staff on Board

By Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead

Any type of change requires extra effort within the school. Advance planning is important to make it easier for everyone involved to feel comfortable and support the farm to school initiative. It is not possible to over-communicate!
By educating and involving others, you can create excitement about the farm to school foods being offered in the cafeteria. Teachers are needed to ensure that students are provided the opportunity to learn more about the food they are eating, where it comes from and how to improve their choices. You may need to help teachers find educational resources that would be useful. In addition, foodservice staff may need more information or skills to be successful. Perhaps training on knife skills or more information about the products they are receiving would be helpful.

Plan with Your Staff

We encourage you to involve cooks and other foodservice staff in the planning process. The Willmar School District schedules a two-hour, hands-on meeting in late spring with head cooks and staff to test potential farm to school recipes.
Below are preparations that Annette Derouin, Food Service Director of Willmar Public Schools makes for this meeting:
  • She works with the head cook at the host school to make sure that all necessary ingredients are stocked.
  • Copies are made of each farm to school recipe being considered for the next school year; both a small-scale "home" version to be tested and a scaled-up food service version for staff to read.
  • Stations are set up in the kitchen on the meeting day; each station includes a recipe and the ingredients and equipment needed to prepare that recipe. Staff members choose the station where they want to work.
  • Staff members prepare the recipe at their station and set the results out for sampling. All staff members taste the results of each recipe and evaluate it for ease of preparation, tastiness, and so on.

Train Your Staff

It’s really important to train cooks and cafeteria workers on how to offer new farm to school foods to students. Staff should not communicate their own biases about new foods to students. Staff should be willing to give foods more than one chance to be accepted by students. Multiple exposures to new foods are needed to increase acceptance and intake among students.
At Little Falls Community Schools, foodservice staff felt supported as they were given information and preparation techniques early on just as their farm to school initiative was getting started. After the positive student feedback started rolling in, staff embraced the changes.

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