Luxemburg-Casco “Grows” Participation in F2S

The Luxemburg-Casco (L-C) School District is among a growing number of districts to participate in the Farm to School program (F2S) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Farm-to-school programs focus on delivering healthy foods to children while supporting rural economic development and local farmers. It also provides economic benefits, according to 2023 research by Cornell University. Increases in local food spending often drive expansion of related farm and food-product industries.

The movement promotes the use of locally and regionally grown foods in schools, according to L-C Food Service Director Deb Pockl.

“What a great learning opportunity it is for our students to see where their food comes from,” says Pockl. “We also strongly believe in supporting our local businesses. The Farm to School program gives us the chance to do that.”

F2S provides school districts with the flexibility to tailor their individual program to the needs of their home area. L-C has opted to place its focus on local purchasing, along with serving produce grown on-site by its students.

Pockl worked closely with Justine Selk, L-C High School Agriculture teacher and FFA coordinator. Together they decided what food products could best be grown by students for the lunch program. They determined that tomatoes and leaf lettuce, and possibly cucumbers, will be the primary focus of student agricultural production.

“Our mission is to provide students with tangible work skills in agriculture,” says Selk. “Growing produce for their fellow students in the Agriscience Center greenhouse does that in a meaningful way. They see the process from start to finish.”

A number of local partnerships were created last year, supported by a USDA Local Foods Grant. In 2023, the district purchased ground beef, ground pork, hot dogs, shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese. They also purchased fresh apples and cider from local businesses.

Approximately $14,500 was put back into the local economy through the enhanced focus on local purchasing, Pockl says.

Pockl places a 1946 quote from President Harry Truman – In the long view, no nation is any healthier than its children or more prosperous than its farmers – which he gave upon signing the National School Lunch Act, on all monthly menus of the district.

“I use this quote because it reflects the commitment of the food services department to serving fresh, local food whenever possible to the students and staff in our district,” she says.

Expansion of the district’s growing capacity, through the purchase of additional grow towers and related equipment, is under consideration. Along with the enhancement of practical work opportunities for students, other ways to broaden the F2S program for the 2024-25 school year also are being discussed.