MCAS to Launch Local Farm Partnership During National School Lunch Week
Michigan City, Ind., October 5, 2023 - Students attending Michigan City Area Schools will enjoy fruits, vegetables, and more provided by local farmers, thanks to a new program that will begin during National School Lunch Week, October 9-13.
MCAS has partnered with the NWI Food Council (NWIFC) to serve locally sourced food from area farmers for school lunches. Funding for the initiative is made possible through a Local Food for Schools grant awarded to the NWIFC by the Indiana Department of Health. The grant provides funds to NWIFC to purchase local products from Indiana farmers, such as vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, dairy, and grains, which the organization distributes at no cost to qualifying schools in the Northwest Indiana region.
“We’re excited to begin introducing students to a range of fresh, healthy foods that are produced so close to home,” said MCAS Food Service Director Nicole Santana.
MCAS will receive its first delivery of locally sourced food provided through the program – apples from Garwood Orchards – on Friday, October 6. According to Santana, other types of food will be ordered in the coming weeks, depending upon availability and planned school menus.
“This semester, we will be focusing on ordering produce,” she said. “We hope to expand that next semester to some of the other items that will be available, such as cheeses, eggs, honey, and ground beef.”
Area farms participating in the program include Garwood Orchards, Rainfield Farm, Tuholski Produce, Kankakee Valley Homestead, and Fischer Farms, among others.
MCAS will also celebrate National School Lunch Week in its cafeterias next week, as Food Service staff invites students to “Level Up with School Lunch” – a nod to video gaming, a popular trend with students. The week is celebrated at schools across the nation and is promoted by the nonprofit School Nutrition Association.
“Our staff definitely gets into the theme, decorating the cafeterias, dressing in costumes, and leading a variety of educational activities,” said Santana. “It’s all about promoting the importance of good nutrition and eating a healthy lunch, which has a direct tie to student achievement.”
Each year, Michigan City Area Schools serves more than 1.5 million healthy meals, including 81 tons of fruits and vegetables and 75,000 gallons of milk. At Michigan City High School, in the recently upgraded cafeteria, a student favorite is homemade pizza, which is freshly prepared each lunch period and includes specialties such as Hawaiian and taco pizza. Other popular options available in the school’s five service lines include a zesty southwest vegetable lasagna, spicy chicken wings, chicken caesar wraps, cobb salads, deli subs, protein boxes, and a daily Harvest Bar. To satisfy their sweet tooth, students can enjoy frozen yogurt from a self-service machine.
At middle schools, students are offered a variety of entree choices each day, with sides that include baked fries, steamed veggies, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a daily choice of deli salads or sandwiches. Popular choices include the philly grinder, stromboli, and a spicy chicken sandwich. At elementary schools, meals are prepared with an eye toward healthy options such as whole-grain buns, lean meats, steamed veggies, fresh fruit, and 100% fruit juices.
More than 70 employees work as Food Service professionals in Michigan City Area Schools. “When you consider the volume of meals produced each day, you realize what a phenomenal job they are doing,” said Santana. “They maintain a large inventory management system, receive deliveries throughout the day, and follow food safety and quality control regulations. And they greet students with a smile!”
All MCAS students receive school breakfast and lunch at no cost, thanks to the district’s participation in the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program. For more
information – and all school menus – visit http://educateMC.net/food. For more information
about the NWI Food Council, visit https://www.nwifoodcouncil.org/.