Weather Forecast


Contest promotes locally grown fruits and vegetables in school

Minnesota schools that bring locally grown fruits and vegetables to their cafeterias are encouraged to take it up a notch in September.

Schools can qualify for the “Eat Smart Food” contest by demonstrating an increase in the volume and variety of fruits and vegetables purchased per student, as well as educational outreach on farm-to-school programming.

The contest is coordinated by University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Education.

“When it comes to nutrition, it’s hard to think of a better way to start the school year than by participating in the Eat Smart Food Contest,” said Susan DeBlieck, Extension educator and state lead for National Farm to School Network. “By promoting healthy competition among schools, we’re also prioritizing healthy eating habits among youngsters.”

To compete, schools must participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). FFVP operates under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service and is administered by the state education department.

The three winning schools will receive prizes valued at $1,000 apiece to support their farm-to-school efforts. They’ll also receive a visit from Olympic runner Carrie Tollefson, spokeswoman for the agriculture department’s Minnesota Grown program, which champions locally grown produce.

“Students get excited when they learn the origin of their food or who grew their food,” said Gail Anderson, coordinator for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at the Minnesota Department of Education. “The Eat Smart Food Contest will provide support to schools and farmers to continue their farm to school efforts.”

The contest coincides with the September celebration of Farm to School Month. Farm-to-school programs aim to improve children’s overall diet and create healthier eating habits now and in the future.

In Minnesota, schools engaged in farm-to-school efforts have increased from just 20 in 2006 to 145 in 2011. Apples, tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers are among the most common locally grown items served in Minnesota schools.

For more information, contact DeBlieck at (320) 203-6105 or