Growing for Schools: Product Development and Processing Partnerships

March 9, 2023

More Info

This session has held as part of the community food systems track during the 2023 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With virtual conference. This virtual conference held February 27-March 10, 2023, is a two-week program encompassing many aspects of the agricultural industry and offering a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. Sessions were recorded and can be found online at

Video Transcript

Welcome everyone to our third session in this series on Farm School with the Michigan AG, Ideas to Grow With virtual conference. I want to welcome you all here today and just go over a few housekeeping items. So my name is Mariel Borgman, I'm a community food systems educator with Michigan State University Extension and I am going to be the host moderator of the session today. Today we will hear from a number of speakers. So we have a group here today is actually actively working on a processing partnership and doing product development work with that. And so I'm super excited to have all of these folks here today to talk about what they're doing. So we have my colleague, Garrett Ziegler, who is also a community food systems educator with Michigan State University Extension. We have Dan Gorman with Montague Area Public Schools and Crystal van help, van Pelt, excuse me, from Valley Hub. We also have Clarence Rudat, who will be joining us a little bit later in the presentation today from Michigan State University Products Center and Farm in Muskegon. So super excited to have this group here today. I'll let them all get started in just a minute. One other thing before we get started, just want to thank our generous sponsors who have made it possible for this conference to be put on free of charge. So I want to thank Michigan State University Extension as well as AgriStrategies LLC. Alright, so without further ado, I'm gonna stop sharing my screen and turn it over to our presenters. Well, thanks for that introduction. Mariel, as she said, my name is Garrett Ziegler and I am a community food systems educator. with MSU Extension And I work in what I've worked kinda statewide, especially some of the farm institution and farm of schoolwork, but I'm based in Grand Rapids and kinda cover the central region and across Grand Rapids. So today we're going to hear from a number of different folks, as Mariel said. But primarily I'm gonna kinda kick us off with a quick introduction to into some more basic information around processing and partnerships for the in-between farm and school part, part of Farm to School. And we'll talk about a couple of the different projects that are going on and things that have happened across the state. And then we'll hear specifically on some things from some of our project partners. So I kinda wanted to kinda kick us off by helping us think about what we're going to be diving into today. And I know this audience is primarily farmers. Maybe some folks that are interested in Farm to School or support farmers that are interested in selling into the Farm to School market. But I'm sure we've all maybe heard of are familiar with the term Farm to School. You can picture the food growing on the farm. It's being served in a school. But there's a lot that has to happen in-between those two pieces, that kind of "to" aspect of Farm to School that we maybe just kind of gloss over sometimes when we're talking about it. But there's a lot that happens in-between the actual production of the farm and the meals being served to kids in schools. So today we're kinda, kinda focus on that "to" space between the farm and the school and talk about ways that farmers can work with partner with and see their product be reformulated or reprocess or reproduced into a way that makes it easier for it to be used in school meals. So kind of gonna get through a couple of slides here that are from a presentation that was developed through the USDA and some partners across the nation on Farm to School called Bringing the Farm to School. And just kinda going over some basic, more basic things about processing and why that's maybe an important step that you might want to consider if you're a farm that's looking to sell your product to a school. So I think it's really important to, if you're a farmer that's interested in it and you're like, I have this product, I'm growing a decent amount of quantity of it, I'm pretty sure that a school might be interested in, I can, I have the ability and the product itself. That's all well and good, but that might not actually mean that you can actually sell that product to a school. So there's a lot of things on the school side that you might want to be thinking about in terms of, is my product actually the right fit? You know, thinking about the equipment that a school has, do they have a full kitchen? Are they able to actually break down the spaghetti squash you see here in this picture? Because that takes labor, takes prep time. What does the student population there at the school that would actually be eating this food? And I'm sure Dan, we'll talk more about how to engage students in eating food that's coming from local farmers, and how do you do that in positive ways? Really first and finally, do those products require some level of processing? That would maybe help alleviate some of those barriers that exist within the actual school's capacity to utilize those products. So just kinda talk quickly through some basic examples of what a process product might look like. So for instance, when we talk about processing, we're not talking necessarily about cooking and canning and maybe turning like tomatoes and vegetables into sauces or tomato sauce, which are definitely processed products, we're kinda more talking in the realm of light and, and moderate processing. So you're not necessarily changing too much about the physical makeup of the product or cooking process, but maybe you're just making it easier to incorporate into the cooking process that a school has. Or easier in this case, of the sliced apples that you see in this picture. Just easier for kids to consume more readily rather than having to serve full apples, which can be a barrier for some kids to actually take bites into full apples versus an apple slice that's much easier, more accessible. Thinking about cut vegetables and fruit, does the school itself have any processing capabilities that you might be able to utilize, or they may be able to utilize, to be able to utilize your products. Is there any on-farm infrastructure needed for you to actually do some of this processing on the farm side. And it's also really important to consider state and local regulations and food safety practices. If you are doing anything to alter the product physically, even if it's just light processing, there are definitely regulations and food safety practices that you need to be following. And then packaging comes into that and all those sorts of things. So lots to consider, even if you're just cutting vegetables like fresh vegetables and fruit. Another form of processing that's kind of light or minimal process product is frozen product processing or products. These obviously are more capital intensive. It takes a lot more energy infrastructure to be able to freeze product versus just cutting and slicing or kinda altering it in the fresh cut way. And with that added infrastructure, there are definitely additional resources that are available. There's primary school or value-added producer grants that can assist with some of that equipment for those value-added products. And that's really on the farm side. So if you were a farm that wanted to put in some infrastructure to be able to freeze Maybe you're a cherry farm that wants to freeze some of your cherries, to sell into school markets or need equipment to do that, those grants are available to support that. And there's other benefits to this value added type of processing, especially freezing. Oftentimes, the products in Michigan are available and ripe and fresh when schools may not be necessarily purchasing. So throughout the summer, there's less purchasing done by schools obviously. And freezing products can help add shelf life to those products and make them much more readily able to be used during the school year. Something about frozen blueberries, frozen cherries, all those different things that are fresh in season during the summer here in Michigan. So there's also the option of if there isn't something that you actually want to take on, on the farm side, the ability to work with partners. And that's really what we're gonna be focusing on today, is kind of organizations, businesses, and people that work kinda in-between the farm and within the school and before that school meal it gets to the kids. So I wanted to talk through an example of one company we have here in Michigan called Michigan Farm to Freezer. And they're really a, just what they say they are, they they take fresh farm products and they freeze them and repackage them for both institutional scale as well as consumers seek scale sales. And they really make that fresh Michigan summer early fall bounty readily available throughout the year to Michigan schools. And they really started out as an organization part of Goodwill Industries up in the Northwest part of the state. But as a way for a school to be able to utilize some of those foreign fresh products that were coming from farms and area. And thinking through the fact that if we were able to freeze these, that we had some of that infrastructure than that would allow them to be used more often throughout the year. So that's been a really, really great partner to work with when we're building these relationships and these value chains between the actual farmers and actual schools. If you're a farmer that is thinking about looking at a process product to be able to sell into schools. It's also important to consider how that's going to impact the cost of your product, what you were able to sell it for. So processing will often increase the price of the product you're trying to solve what school you're adding some value. By doing that processing, you're making it easier for the school to incorporate it. So they may be willing to purchase that from you for an increased price for that added. That less time that's required to break down a butternut squash on the school side, the more value that, that product has to them when they're incorporating it into their meals. Along with that higher value products, there's obviously lots of costs that go into that. There's the actual cost to process the product. If you are doing a frozen product or something along those lines, there may be storage costs related to that. So if you have a product that's frozen, you're gonna need to store it frozen. You can hit a walk-in freezer or something along those lines. Added transportation of getting the product to maybe a processing site and then bring it back to your farm or wherever that transportation is happening. Obviously additional time labor for the processing. And then there's some opportunity costs. If you're waiting for that product to be processed, that is time that may be lost for you to actually sell that product fresh as well. So those are some of the basics around why processing is a really important part of that "to", aspect of thinking through Farm to School programs. I just did want to briefly introduce a product project that we're working on here at MSU in partnership with Dan, Clarence and Crystal from KVCC, who are the rest of our speakers for today. And this is actually being funded by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development through a specialty crop block grant. This is really looking at one specific product, in particular that we produce here at Michigan and that's potatoes. And we're really looking at trying to develop a processed potato product that can be readily incorporated and easily incorporated into school meals. So something that, you know, taking those potatoes, dicing them, blanching them, freezing them, and then having them be readily available and easily incorporated through a roasted potato item on a school menu. And then something we've been working with KVCC and Dan to accomplish and really make it as easy as possible for schools to be able to purchased potatoes from a farmer and have those partners along the supply chain that can process them and get them into the form that allows them to really easily incorporate those into their meals. Another aspect of this grant that we're working on is regional marketplace events, which are networking style events that help connect institutions like schools, early care and education sites with local farmers and suppliers that may have local products, to sell to those schools. So those are another aspect of this specific grant project. But today we're gonna be focused in on more of the supply chain and value chain work. That's part of that. Alright? And I think that is my time. Like I said, I just wanted to provide some basic information and turn it over to folks that I'm a colleague with. Partners that we work with that are going to dive more into the work that they do specifically. And hopefully you'll learn more about that in-between work that happens in Farm to School. All right. I'll turn it over to Crystal van Pelt with KVCC. Alright, thank you, Garrett. So as you can see, I'm the food systems Education Program Manager here at KVCC. It is a brand new grant-funded position that we have for three years using some USDA funding. So it is brand new and I'm really happy that this exists and I get to offer wrap around support to our farmers and our buyers. So that's the main driver for my position currently here at Valley hub. We are affiliated with Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Everyone seems to get that when they hear valley, they think of KVCC. So we are pretty unique in the fact that we are tied to a community college. There are no other food hubs in Michigan that are tied to an educational institution. So that's another reason why I am here to provide education and support services to the partners to make local food more feasible. And so you might be asking yourself, what is a food hub? So there are a lot of different food hubs. People in the industry say if you've seen one food hub, you've seen one food hub because they're all different. So for the USDA definition, it is a business or organization that manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source identified food products. So that's what really differentiates us from broad line distributors as we keep source identity from the farm all the way to our buyers. So on every single label that goes out, we have the farm of origin, which is a very key component to the $0.10 a meal program. There's $9.4 million on the table but you do have to provide that source identities. That's a very good service that we offer and it helps our farmers and our school stay connected. So I recently saw one of our farms went into a school and did a taste test with their apples. And they're able to make that connection because they're using our online sales platform and they knew what farm they were buying their apples from. There are four main components of valley hub, and today we'll talk about three of them. So first we will talk about are processing services or logistic services and some education. But we also have an urban farm on about two acres here in downtown Kalamazoo. So people don't really know we're here. They see our greenhouses and our hoop houses, and they don't really understand urban agriculture. So it's always interesting to get people here and we're always down to give tours. So if you guys are interested in coming to visit, visit us here in Kalamazoo. Feel free to come by and you'll see a lot of wonderful things in our food hub, in our urban farm. One big piece of our business model is fresh and frozen processing. So about 10%, maybe 20% of what we do are processed items. The other 80 or 90% is whole food items going to our institutional buyers. So we have a huge focus on schools right now, but we also sell to Bronson hospital and other restaurants and grocery stores around the Kalamazoo area. But this processing ability, as Garrett mentioned, really reduces the barriers for schools to buy from us and use local products. So it's something we're very proud of here at Valley Hub and I'm glad to be a part of this team working on developing more fresh and frozen items here for our farmers and our schools in Southwest Michigan. So specifically, we're here to talk about our potato processing partnerships. So here at Valley hub we're helping co-design this process. So we have all the equipment and we're figuring out how to develop this standard operating procedure for freezing these potatoes. We currently do a fresh diced potato that goes to Bronson hospital and it has a shelf life of about 14 days. But they're ordering them every week, so we're processing those every week for them. And they're literally two blocks away. So we don't really have to worry about extending that shelf-life much. But we're approach to asking if we could make a frozen item because obviously that greatly extend the shelf life. So we're doing the trials trying to figure out blanching times and see if we need a preservative in there to keep them from browning or blackening when they are being stored and cooked. And then we also have guidance from Dan as far as like what type of potato, whether we should take the skin off or skin on. And he's gonna be developing the recipe as far as how to cook the potato and season it and those sorts of things. So other schools can also use these products. So he'll be sharing that with his fellow food service directors. And their hope is to actually get their own processing line going in the Montague area, which is the exact reason why we exist. We are a pretty small-scale food hub, but we're here to be a great resource and a mentor for others who want to develop value-added businesses as well. So big piece of our business is our logistical service. So a lot of farmers don't have access to refrigerated trucks or if they do. There's so many school buildings that it's not feasible to drop off to them. I know when I've worked in Indiana, we had a school district with seven buildings and it's like the school director didn't want to be the one distributing to all seven buildings and the farmers didn't have time to distribute tall seven buildings. So it's really great that we have access to two refrigerated box trucks. So we do weekly pickups and drop-off schedules. So we provide that logistical service or the farmers don't have to worry about it and dispose don't have to worry about it. And we also help with billing and those sorts of things. So how it all works. We do have a sales platform. We do use local line right now so our farmers can go on and list their inventory online. Our school buyers or institutional buyers can login and place their orders twice a week. And so our current schedule is Monday pickup for a Tuesday delivery and then a Wednesday pickup for Thursday delivery. Items can literally be harvested, picked up, and dropped off to our buyers within about 48 h depending on what the crop is and the harvest schedule. So you're getting the freshest items possible from our farmers. And that's something we really love to hear from our buyers, is that the shelf life is just. A week or two better and they're using, or they're wasting a lot less than some of the stuff they're getting from broad line distributors who have been sitting on trucks for for a week and eating up that shelf life for the item. So it is all handled online and we do have about 30 farmers and food makers right now and about 60 buyers. The buyers can go on and buy from any of our 30 suppliers and they'll receive one invoice instead of receiving an invoice from every farm and every food maker that they're buying items for. So it really helps with the bookkeeping on both ends that the farmer is getting one invoice and the schools are getting one invoice. So our reach, there are several food hubs in the State of Michigan. So if you're not local to Kalamazoo, I really encourage you to see what food hubs cover your area. So for Kalamazoo, we are pretty hyperlocal in Southwest Michigan, so we have about a 50 mile radius that gets us about up to the Grand Rapids area, over past Battle Creek down to the statewide, but we really only go to about three rivers right now and then over to Benton Harbor. So we will accept deliveries from outside that area. One of our farm producers does deliver to us from Holland. And we have other value-added makers coming from, from other areas and they do drop off to us and then we provide the distribution service as well. We are flexible with that space depending on what the logistics look like and if it makes sense for our truck routes to go further, so that's just a little bit and of the geography that we serve here at KVCC, see we do have a mission to provide education. So we say education is our number one crop and everything that we do is grounded at the intersection of food production, social justice, environmental sustainability, nutrition, and health. So here you can see some examples of educational programs that we put on. We do beekeeping series. We have youth camps here on site so they can come play in our raised beds and really get their hands dirty and experience agriculture. And we also do offer community classes around sustainability and homesteading and all sorts of things. So I really recommend checking out our website if you're local and interested in any of those classes. Then a big piece of my work is around food safety. So again, I offer wraparound services for our farmers. So that's making sure that they are at the right level of food safety. So our minimum requirement is a food safety plan, a written food safety plan, and $1,000,000 liability insurance with KVCC written into the policy. So one method that we verify these food safety plans is by partnering with our conservation districts. So we work closely with our produce safety technicians. They can go out on farms and help verify and they do have a confidential service. So they'll go out and walk you through the produce safety risk assessment, which has this whole rubric of things that they walk through with you. And if you're good to go, they let me know that if you have a few things to tweak and work on they let me know that and we can circle back around when that farm is more ready. So they just really helped me gauge so preparedness for farmers to start selling to our food hub. And I'm always here to help make those connections and help farmers grow and get to the wholesale level and the correct food safety level that they need to be at to sell to us. This is our website. We are online at And if you are a farmer or a school member and want to engage with us and ask how you can be a partner or how you can get started with us you can either use this blue Get Started button or the contact form and then that will send us all emails and let us know that you're interested in working in working with us and one of us will follow up with you depending on if you're a farmer or a school, or just a community member that's interested to learn more about valley hubs. So I highly encourage, if you're interested in working with us after this presentation, you go to our website and fill out a contact us form. Then we're also present on social media. So we are trying to grow that with Instagram and Facebook. And then we do have an e-mail address that goes to the full-time staff here at value hubs. So if you have questions for someone here and you don't want to use the contact form you can email us at So I hope that's been helpful in teaching guys about food hubs and Michigan. And I will pass it on to our next presenter. So we're going to keep things moving and I'm going to turn it over to my colleague Clarence Rudat from the MSU Extension Products Center and Muskegon farm and he's gonna tell you a little bit about what they do there. And I'll hand it over to you. Clarence. Thanks. I appreciate it, was in a little meeting today, so I appreciate being able to get out and to be able to talk about this. So I am Clarence Rudat and I am part of the MSU Products Center. The Product Center is an organization that's part of extension that supports innovation and growth for businesses interests, industry, entrepreneurs in the food, agriculture and natural resources sector. As part of my role, I help manage the Food and Agriculture Research and manufacturing accelerator in Muskegon. And that facility is designed for second stage incubators. People who are moving out of a kitchen incubator, kitchen, home kitchen, or just need more space and we can do that for them. Can you go to the next slide for me real quick? One of the, so this processing space, it allows us to be able to produce food under food license, specifically for what somebody might be wanting to do there. And one of the challenges around Farm to School has been getting a place to process that. So we have people, farmers, who can produce that needs to be in a state where schools can actually take that product and being able to utilize that. So that's one of the things that we've been able to work on. One of the other pieces to that is MSU has a mobile food processing lab. If you could give me a chance to share my screen, I'll throw up a couple of slides of that. One of the opportunities that we've had with being able to have that mobile lab and to have farm. There's a docking station That's part of that. That mobile food processing lab can bring in equipment so we can demo that. We're developing the ability to take that off site as well and process right at a farm. And then do education and training around that. There's some opportunities there to try to solve that problem of how do we take raw product from the farm and do some minimal processing either at farm or in the mobile lab to get that in a usable state. The other piece of that has not been just food service, but working with culinary and to develop products that can be utilized in schools. So Muskegon Career Tech Center is an example. We've actually are working with them right now to scale up a healthy muffin made out of beans. That was a project that Dan Corman and the Career Tech Center had worked on together through some of their projects. And we have a sister facility in Okemos, the food processing Innovation Center, which we can actually do some added processing there and added testing. So we've been able to utilize both of those facilities to do that. Including I'm showcasing some equipment out there that manufacturers have might be able to be utilized in a school setting. And I won't steal Dan's thunder But it's a really great project to work on. Msu has been really excited to be a part of this, to get those local products to the school. So I'll end there and let you guys take it from there. Thank you. Thank you. Clarence. Can you all see my screen again? As Clarence said, he didn't want to steal Dan's thunder And Dan Gorman is our next presenter. Who is the Food Service Director with Montague Area Public Schools and North Muskegon Public Schools. And Dan has been one of the leaders across the state and nationally in Farm to School, in innovating and getting, doing all he can as a food service director to ensure that he's able to work with local farmers and incorporate that local food into his school meals that he serves. So he's going to tell us a little bit about that work and some of the things he's been doing specifically in the schools that he oversees to work with farmers and work on that processing piece, even on more on the school side then that in-between. Alright. Thank you, Garrett. It's great to be here. I'm excited about it. I do want to point out the fire alarm has gone off twice during this presentation, so I'm hopefully not going to have to fight with the alarm, but welcome to everyone and I want to share a little bit about what we've been doing in our schools. If we could go to the next slide, that would be great. So a little bit, I think I wanted to go back and start from the beginning. So i've I've been working on Farm to School in my district probably for the last 10 to 15 years. But I've been in my district 24 years. When I first started, I was a little overwhelmed by the idea of farm to school. And I thought Farm to School meant I had to do everything that I had to do, classroom losses and community events. And I'm getting local products and do it. And I I as a food service director, I really liked the idea of like I'm gonna push a button on my computer and my food is going to show up tomorrow. That that was really appeal to me for a long time. And where that started to change. It was it was in October 1 year and I had a person or a library assistant was an apple grower and it's October and she's like Gorman. What do you do uncertain. Washington Avenue, Michigan in October. And I'm like, Oh yeah, yeah, There are great apples around I should be looking at that. And that really started that process of, of what can I do or how do I do it? And it's not, it's not simple, it's not. you know cause some of the things I found out is, this might shock all of you guys, but farmers are busy too. So it's not like they're sitting around thinking, you know, what should I just run some food over to the schools. So there's challenges on those ends of trying to how to make it work. But over the years we've continued to add different things that we could do. So we found that local grower who we could work with and do that and we've done other things to try to make that process work. And I know there's some school districts north of me, Shelby school districts has built a number of great relationships with farmers, were farmers will bring her food throughout the year and she processes in her kitchen and gets it to her kids and she does a great job with it. But as I looked at the process, I really wanted to make something that would work for me, but would also work for a lot of other districts. And that that involves that middle to step in my kitchens with I really need and what I use on a daily basis for my cooks is they take they take a bag and they opened it up and they throw it on a sheet tray to throw in the oven. So that's what they do with french fries and carrots and a lot of their food. And to add anything on to that, really isn't something that fits our system. In some, it might be their skill level of doing it, but also the timing of doing it. So 50 pounds of unprocessed carrots, you really would take a lot of time and effort that our buildings don't have a lot trying to look for this value-added thing that we were doing was really important. And we really, you know, the other thing I want to say about it, my goal in the end is to be able to have system's set up. So we can work with farmers to say, Hey, I know next year I'm going to need extra pounds, pounds of potatoes, and I'm going to need x pounds of strawberries. And I will buy them from you at this price. Minneapolis public schools, which is a larger organization. Every February they put out bids for their products. And they can guarantee a farmer this market. I guarantee you, we're going to purchase this much from you at this price. And that's a real win for farmers. And one of our wind stories that we've had is. So we've been working with phrenic farms up and Oceana County and for our apples. And he brought us these really small apples in their incubator apples. And so he doesn't normally do anything with them that they're really used to, I'm sorry, a pollinator and they're really used to help pollinate the other apple trees. And they produce these little apples, have a rough skin, so they're not as pretty, but they're sweet and they have a great flavor. And so he came up with the idea that we market those and we call them flavor bombs. And we did taste tests with them. And our kids love them because they're great. They're great size for an elementary school. But even when we tasted them with our high-schooler, this product that he really didn't have much of a use for. We will take in droves because we because kids love them. And to me that's, that is the goal. And the wind here is not that. It's the farmers have the opportunity to expand what they're, what they're giving us also. So next slide would be great. So one of the things that have happened in the state and is called the $0.10 a meal program. And what this is, It started out as a privately funded grant up in the Travis City area of going to school food service programs and saying, You know what? If you buy local foods, we will match what you pay. So it's a 50% match. And over the years it has grown. And it was done regionally funded by the state and now does it statewide program and it has $9.4 million allocated for it. What it is if I buy a local product, an unprocessed, through your vegetable, the state will match me $0.50. So if I spend $100 on apples, the state will match me $0.50. And so this has been a really great program to help focus school food service programs on, well, how do I make this happen? Where can I find local? And also a lot of our processors. Most of our food comes from Gordon Food Service, which is a broad line distributor. And that's the company where I push a button today and they bring me food tomorrow. And so this has gone and challenged them a little bit of like, well, what do you bring us that's local and Gordon's, Gordon's, will work with local farmers and when it's in season but not always identifying that as local. And so we really push them hard to say, well, what can you identify as local? What more can you do? Those type of things? And some of our barriers with this really, from a school food service perspective, has been in it involves paperwork because this was a state-funded program. In the legislator, legislation, it is written that it wants to know what we need to track is we need to track what's the product we purchased. When did we purchase it, how much did we pay for it, and what farm did it come from, and what county is that farm? And so if I'm buying for my Apple supplier, that's pretty simple. I've got apples from Oceana County and it's farms. But when I'm working with a distributor, that information might not be readily available. And a lot of food service directors, even though they had access to the money, were like, you know what? I don't have time for the paperwork. It's new and it's different. You have to go on the system and it has to be formatted a certain way. And so there were some districts that would have $20,000 allocated for this program and they would have spent the money. So they purchased it through the year, but they just didn't want to do the paperwork. And I talked to the state and I talked to the districts and I said, You know, you can pay someone $5,000 to do this and still make $15,000. So why would you not want to? And so we've been working the last couple of years really aggressively. I've been working with the state on doing this and helping districts in the nice part about as a food service director, I can go the other food service directors and say, you know, stop being stupid, just do this. We'll do this on your apples and you can make this money because it, because it is, it's free money. And I can go to our vendors, Gordon Food Service and say, Hey, I'm a customer and if you're costing me money, um, there's gonna be a problem and I'll find other ways to get the products. And that has helped move the needle on some of these things to really get more focused on the local foods and those type of things. And that has been to really help because more than anything, I want the program to continue. And if we don't if we don't get people on board, it won't continue. And hope and dream once again as we get more of the local farms getting food into these distributors. So we can we can get more food in there. Next slide, please. The last part of farm to school, which I think a lot of times doesn't get a lot of attention is. So we've gotten it in house. We've gotten at process the way we need it. Our cooks make the food. But now all the kids eat it. And what I've found in my years is that students to eat, to eat different foods, they need to have a relationship with foods. And so we've done a lot in our districts to start that process and we're working on doing it a little more countywide. Next slide. So really I'm going to just show some examples of the things that we've done and give you a quick explanations. While we do is we call this off food literacy kids learning and having examples of food and making that connection and relationship. On the first thing I want to talk about us, we do have a FFA group in our school district. And they learn their education around agriculture issues. And that's how they do their science program. And one of the things we do is we do a harvest day in the fall with local foods like corn on the cob and we do a turkey pot roast with carrots and onions, local fresh greens and have country dairy comment. And they serve ice cream for us and bring their cow and then the FFA sets up probably six to eight activities. That might be an apple taste test, or it might be learn about corn, or it might be a corn maze. And it's just really a great family event that we've done that really connects not only the kids, but the families. Next slide, I'm Clarence touched a little bit on our cultivate Michigan program for the past ten years, we've had a relationship with our career tech center and Muskegon County, the hospitality program. Alyssa Pentsar, the chef instructor and her students have made it part of their curriculum that the students learn all of their culinary skills around using Michigan products to make foods that fit into the school lunch program. On the one slide, the product was spinach and so on. When they made a great spinach enchilada that we served in school. And so what they'll do is they'll spend about six weeks developing recipes and trying and retry. And then they bring it to our school district for a taste test. The bean muffin has been a real big hit with bus and we've done a lot of work with the USDA to make sure it qualifies and the school meals program, and we're still working on that. But it's really surprising the innovation that students do with the items where I think I just have a smaller sculpt and when you let a kid really go loose on it, they really do a lot. Next slide. The other thing we do on a regular basis, this is we have gardens and a lot of our schools. And we've been able through grants and other support to support school nutrition educators. And so we will have farm tours and they will do regular things in the garden to really help them connect with it. And so that's been really successful to get that worked into the educational part of the program. And so I think at this point, I think we're going to turn it back over and will be open for questions. I believe that is correct. Thanks, Dan. So just wanted to provide all of the folks that we're speaking here today is contact info. Dan, I have lens conduct if I wasn't sure if she was playing to join or not, but maybe they can reach out to her if they had questions specific to some of the student engagement pieces. So Dan, You didn't mention much I guess I have some insider knowledge to you didn't mention much about your plans with the potato products, but could you elaborate a little bit on that? Yeah. Yeah, Sorry, I missed that part. So the potato project that what we're doing is we're looking for additional ways to bring in Michigan products. I really looked at it, what we do in our program. And I would say, like in our high schools, I would say maybe two times a week or three times a week, we might serve a potato like a french fry or rotator time. We might do it once a week or once a month. And our elementary schools, if we could figure out a program where we could use a Michigan potato and get it process. So it's easy to develop a recipe that it tastes good and has good flavor. We could use up to 300 pounds a week of that product. And so that really would be. That would move a lot of volume. You know, some of the, some of the things that we look at that might be a Michigan private, it's just like a normal hot vegetable we might serve once a day and not every kid takes it and so it's a challenge. So the couple of things I, I have thought for the next step is carrots because we can serve carrots sticks every day to the kids and then it's a product. We move chap lettuce and potatoes. And so that's really why I started working with clearance and crystal to try figure out how we could work this. And we do have some funds for trying to build a processing kitchen with MSU's help and clearance is how we purchase some equipment that can help with that. And we've got some funds to have space for it and really kinda move to that next level where we can start processing that product in our school and have it then hopefully share that within our county is kind of my my end goal that we would have that something that would be something that could be used throughout the county to really support that local food and kind of set it up that way. Awesome. Thanks Dan. We do have a question in the chat from Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen is going to talk to local school on Monday about the team nutrition grant for the first time. So what questions should she be asking? As you to talk about the 10th set grant or team or is there a different grants? So if if if she wants to work with a local school, kinda the question that she wants to ask would be, what would be products that they they would use their current not the tenths ingredient. So what what Team Nutrition grant, I guess I don t know. Mary Ellen, you can feel free to unmute your mic to if it's easier. And it looks like USDA has a team nutrition training grant out there. Oh, they have that. Is the team nutrition training grants a pretty big deal. And it will it involves a lot. It involves a very high commitment of really a commitment of doing training with your staff and working with a lot more scratch cooking and those type of things. And depending on where you're going, that is a very it would be a very challenging program for a district to take on. And it would really be something you'd really want to have a director That's really interested in making this shift in what they're doing is finding the way to have the capacity to do it. Because some of those challenges, you know, given what the financial setup of the district is, that they are it takes extra time and effort. And really if you're going to set it up, it would be like a multiple, multiple year commitment of your really going to change what you're doing of getting normal process food into the kitchen to I'm going to buy Whole Foods and I'm gonna get a cut and process. I did. We attempted something like that where I worked with a shaft and we were we were processing we were taking raw chicken and processing it and we developed a half a dozen recipes that with a chef to replace like chicken nuggets and chicken patties with a dish made with raw chicken. And it was a pretty big challenge. And what we really struggled in the end is the acceptance of kids of the product. And we shifted after three years. We shifted where we're using some of those recipes as an alternative meal if kids wanted choose them. And really that's when the whole bids have to have a relationship with food thing came about for me because it's either because they just didn't they didn't take two are freshmen and Hamas and they didn't take our cranberry chicken salad, just wasn't a hit. Our Qing law are keen wild cherry sound that we were making while it was delicious and would do well on taste test, kids just weren't making their choices. And so we were on those days, we're losing about 50 kids per building and make other choices. And so that's when we said, okay, we need to come at this a different angle. That answer your question. So really the willingness of a food service director to take that and it's not a small It's not a small ask.