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In an effort to highlight the numerous small and mid-sized family farms in Minnesota that provide locally grown food for school districts across the state, Governor Mark Dayton recently declared October to be “Farm to School Month.”

The program, led by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, seeks to connect school districts with local farmers in the state, provide opportunities for hands-on learning for students, and encourage schools to provide students with locally grown food in their lunch programs.

Tuesday, department representatives Andrea Vaubel, the assistant commissioner, and Paul Hugunin visited Winona Senior High School to see first-hand how the school utilized the Farm to School grant it received last year, as well as other things the school is doing to implement locally grown food into their school lunches.

State Sen. Jeremy Miller and Rep. Gene Pelowski accompanied the visit as well, to gain insight on the benefits of the program and how it helps WSHS.

The school’s nutrition director, Jennifer Walters, led the group on a tour showcasing their community garden, the bus used for the Summer Lunch Bus program, and the newest addition to their cafeteria — a frozen yogurt machine, which the school purchased using the Farm to School grant received last year.

“We want our students to know some of the food they eat comes from local farms in the area,” Walters said. “There’s a lot of dairy farmers in the area and the frozen yogurt machine is another way to support them while providing students with local product.”

Hugunin said it’s important to promote local agriculture and sustainable farming and get healthy, nutritious meals into students stomachs.

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Vaubel was impressed with everything the school is doing to promote relationships with local farmers and implement locally grown food into the nutrition program. She was particularly impressed with the school’s Summer Lunch Bus Program.

“Wow, this is really great,” she said after Walters showed the group the bus and explained the program.

Walters said the school plans to apply for the Farm to School grant again this year to continue the momentum of promoting and incorporating locally grown food into the school’s lunch program and school curriculum.

The school’s community garden was started last year with help from a grant from the Winona Area Public Schools Foundation, but was only recently completed. Their Summer Lunch Bus program began last summer, serving 3,500 meals to students. And Miller said the frozen yogurt machine has been a popular addition to the school’s lunch.

Last year the Farm to School program gave out 83 grants to schools across the state, with WSHS receiving $5,500, which it used to purchase the frozen yogurt machine.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article implied the school's community garden was started with help from a grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. It was actually started with a grant received from the Winona Area School Districts Foundation for the Dare to Dream Garden.

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