Negaunee High School’s environmental science class has been awarded a $5,000 grant to support a project that will bring more local food into the lunch room.
After meeting with farmers and food service to better understand their local food system, students designed a project that will continue to provide hydroponic greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce to school lunches. Their project includes allocating funds to purchase locally grown foods at the beginning of the 23-24 school year when fresh produce is readily available from local farms.
As the growing season slows, students will use funds to purchase a third hydroponic system to allow the class to continue to grow their own greens that are incorporated directly into the school lunches. Along with the new hydroponic tower, students will purchase a vegetable cutter which can be used to cut a variety of vegetables such as potatoes. These locally grown potatoes could be made into homemade french fries and served in the lunchroom.
These are just a few steps in a larger plan to provide more access to fresh, locally grown options at the school. Students will work together with farmers and food service to provide education and information to their school community about locally sourced food that is purchased through the 10 Cents a Meal program through the UP Food Exchange, an online food hub. Additionally, this initiative deepens relationships between the school and area farms, which will host students for farm tours and leadership activities in the spring.
Payton Ihamaki, an environmental science student, said that she is excited to be a part of the LIFT-UP team this year.
“It is not every day you get to be a part of a group that gets to make decisions that impact their own school lunches,” she said.
Will Rosten agreed and added, “Growing and incorporating locally grown foods into our school lunches will present healthy options for the students at NHS for years to come.”
Even though the grant does not cover the entire cost of the hydroponics system, the environmental science students will continue to fundraise in order to obtain the additional funds needed.
Producing and purchasing more local foods to serve in schools is the major goal of the project. As core components of farm to school, local food production and procurement supports farmers in the community and expands the variety of healthy food choices for students.