Get Home Delivery of The Observer for only $8.50 per month, $9.50 for motor routes. Just click here and after filling out one simple and secure online form you could be on your way to learning more information about local, state and world news.
North Powder students harvest potatoes in their school districtís garden. The fresh produce is replacing many of the canned fruits and vegetables previously served by the district. S. John Collins / Wescom News Service
Student-grown produce used in North Powder School District’s food service programThe North Powder School District’s food service program recently received a thumb’s-up review from the state, one that it may owe in part to the green thumbs of its students.
The school district’s lunch program received a positive overall rating from the Oregon Department of Education last month due partially to the gardening skills of its students.
Fruits and vegetables grown by students in all grades are being served with lunches for the second year in a row. The local produce is helping the district boost the nutritional content of its lunches. This likely helped the district’s food service program win high marks from the state.
The fruits and vegetables are being grown by North Powder students in all grades in the district’s garden and greenhouse, said North Powder Elementary School Principal Gerald Hopkins. Students started doing this after the district received a grant from the government Farm to School program, which is designed to get schools to serve more locally grown produce.
The fresh produce being provided with North Powder lunches is replacing many of the canned fruits and vegetables previously served by the district.
The produce has been a hit with students based on the number of meals served. Entering this September, the most lunches the district had served in one month over the previous three years was 3,100. In October, the district served 4,800 lunches, a remarkable increase considering that the district’s enrollment is about what it was three years ago.
“So many more students eating at school is unreal,’’ said North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon.
Meals are healthier and better tasting not only because of more fresh produce but also because more meals are being made from scratch and less processed food is being served.
Dixon and Hopkins said that Vicky Brown, head of the North Powder School District’s food service program, deserves a lion’s share of the credit for its success.
“She is doing an amazing job,’’ Dixon said.
North Powder’s students are also doing remarkable work. The students produced tomato and corn crops so bountiful they had more than they
needed. The surplus was donated to the community.
A portion of the fruits and vegetables grown were served Thursday at the annual North Powder Christmas dinner, which about 500 community members attended at Powder Valley High School. Dixon said that students received a tremendous sense of satisfaction by seeing food they grew served at the community dinner.
Each month, parents set up a tasting table made up of the fruit and vegetables dishes. The dishes are made from the fruits and vegetables students grew.
Recently one of the dishes was made from zucchini raised by the students. Hopkins said one girl noted that it tasted like pumpkin and wanted more.
The district’s student-grown produce program is continuing to evolve. Presently Powder Valley High School students are building a structure to store their produce and apple, pear and apricot trees are set to be planted this spring. Later a kiosk will be built at the garden. It will serve as a classroom for teachers who want to give instructions about horticulture at the garden.
Such steps will add strength to a program that appears to already be deeply rooted after only two years.