Farm-to school success through juvenile center – university community supported agriculture

Residents of the Berrien County Juvenile Center enjoy more fresh fruits and vegetables through the Michigan Farm to School Grant Program and Andrews University CSA.

Berrien County Juvenile Center food service manager Charity Hackett first took an interest in serving more fresh fruits and vegetables to residents, utilizing a garden at the Center. Since then, the Center has obtained food preservation equipment, developed resident food handling skills training and purchased CSA shares aided by the Michigan Farm to School Grant program. The Berrien County Juvenile Center was one of 21 MI Farm to School Grant recipients in 2014.

In the first year of the farm-to-school initiative, Hackett found difficulty in obtaining small quantities of a variety of produce from many different commercial farm vendors. Working with Michigan State University Extension and the MSU Product Center, the nearby Andrews University’s CSA and market garden program was identified as a reliable source of fresh fruits and vegetables. Bulk apples are purchased from a separate grower.

CSA Andrews University

“We are both raising students and we have found a great way to interact in the mission,” Andrews University Assistant Professor, Garth Woodruff, said regarding his commitment to the effort. “The chefs visit and talk food from time to time, and we leave a newsletter with instructions on odd food. We both are growing from the relationship.”

 As the result of the farm-to-school program, most residents increased fruit and vegetable consumption through exposure to new foods. Center staff substituted as much produce as they could in their menus using many new recipes for the items they received. “Serving eggplant was a perfect example,” Hackett said. “The residents did not take to it well at first, but once they were willing to try it, we had several ask for it again throughout the summer.”

Added benefits to the connecion with local farmers were field trips to area fruit, vegetable and dairy farms. They better learned how their food was produced and packed. Back at the Center, they were prepared to close their own garden down for the season.

To take part in the Michigan Farm to Institution Michigan, join Cultivate Michigan.

Food entrepreneurs are encouraged to seek business counseling by Michigan State University Extension Educators, in addition to meeting certification requirements. Requests for counseling may be made at, or by calling 517-432-8750.

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