Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
In 2014, the Groundwork Center celebrated our 10-year anniversary of farm to school programming in northwest Michigan.
Starting with just a few activities in one school in 2004, our program now spans two Intermediate School Districts serving seven counties in Northwest Lower Michigan, reaching more than 25,000 students.
The broader impact of farm to school work has seen dozens of schools through northwest Michigan begin to support farm to school programming in some form or another, from hosting Junior Iron Chef Competitions and building school gardens, to connecting food service directors with local farmers.
In the 2013-14 school year, our team of two FoodCorps service members and two additional farm to school educators (funded through a USDA Farm to School Grant) helped bring more than 1,500 pounds of local produce into cafeterias and classrooms in Grand Traverse, Benzie, Antrim and Leelanau counties. Three schools started school gardens, and eight more continued operating existing gardens. Cafeteria taste tests had nearly 2,000 students voting whether they “tried,” “liked,” or “loved” local products such as Romanesco cauliflower, parsnips, beets, asparagus, apples, and radishes.
In the 2015-16 school year we partnered with the Grand Traverse office of MSU Extension as well as the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District to launch a collaborative approach to farm to school programming in our region. We have launched an educator network to support teachers interested integrating farm to school programming into their classroom, with a web resource to access lesson plans, how-to videos, recipes and other tools, including resources for school food service staff. Tools and resources can be found at farmtoschool.tbaisd.org. We also brought cooking kits to 14 schools to be utilized by the teachers and staff that have made our farm to school programming a success.
For 2016-17, we have partnered with farm to school and local food advocates in Charlevoix and Emmet counties and have expanded our program to reach even more children. We opened a second office in Petoskey in April of 2017, and our FoodCorps program will serve two schools in Charlevoix and Emmet counties in 2017-18. We continue to link our farm to school program with health and food access initiatives in order to form a more complete strategy to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in our community.