The salad bar at Mt. Horeb Area Middle School
Food Services Director: Michelle Denk
How many kids served? 1500-1600 kids
Percentage of free and reduced? 17%
How many local farms in a given year do you work with? 2 or more
Kids favorite local product? Watermelon, Popcorn, Strawberry Yogurt Parfait (local dairy)
Most used Lunch Box tools? Resources and activities.
Schools are doing local food right all across the country. For Mount Horeb Area School District in Wisconsin, it’s not a new idea. Food Services Director Michelle Denk says they’ve had a Harvest of the Month program for ten years. Now armed with salad bars from Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, their local procurement only gets better!
Over the course of the past decade, the Harvest of the Month program expanded into the classroom and community. Last year, Denk assembled packets of dry beans with a short lesson. Each teacher received the lesson plan and made time in the beginning of their day to present to the class. She hopes to develop these in-class activities this year with the help of two AmeriCorps volunteers.
The harvest planning doesn’t end there. Posters line the cafeteria each month of the celebration, and cards are placed tableside for a little more information on the featured produce. She also makes an announcement the day the item is being served and informs everyone where it is farmed. Parents receive communication in their newletters.
“We live in a great community and a have huge group of parents involved,” Denk said.
Denk also values the farm-to-school relationships her district has fostered. Vermont Valley Community Farm comes to mind in particular. The local farm donates all their seconds to the district. At the beginning of this school year Denk expects tomatoes, red peppers and kolrabi.
Donated produce sometimes surpasses their fresh-on- the -bar needs. In these cases, freezing can extend the bounty of the harvest. Denk uses the frozen veggies for recipes planned throughout the year.
Other successful programs at Mount Horeb –
- Chef in the Classroom: A middle school initiative implemented with the help of an area Whole Foods Market team. Local food is incorporated into the sponsored class.
- School Gardens: Two schools in the district – one elementary and one high school – have gardens of their own. A curriculum exists for each grade. Elementary students plant, harvest and shuck corn for their annual popcorn harvest (math and science lessons are incorporated into this and other crops they grow). The high schools provide seasoned volunteers to help the younger gardeners. Family Consumer Science classes operate the high school’s hoop house and worm bin, both of which the younger students visit regularly.
Mount Horeb Food Services is looking forward to expanding their lunch program by procuring more local products and trying out new menu items. Next on the agenda: assisted by a culinary intern, Denk plans on testing Lunch Box recipes this year. We’re certainly excited to hear all about it!