Minnesota School District Farm-to-Cafeteria Preserves Learning

Students at Sibley East Public Schools continue their pickling process.

Published in Menu Strategies

The farm-to-cafeteria food preserving program of Sibley East Public Schools keeps local tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, squash, green beans and potatoes on school menus well beyond the fleeting Minnesota growing season into winter and spring.

The crops are grown on a one-acre garden plot that was donated to the district, which consists of an elementary school and a high school. Students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades do the planting and tending. The peeling, slicing, blanching and pickling of the thousands of pounds of produce grown there falls to cook-manager Joan Budahn and her three-person staff.

“Last year, we had enough tomatoes for our chili and spaghetti sauce until March,” says Budahn.

In addition, they make sauerkraut to serve with hot dogs and hamburgers by shredding cabbage, mixing it with canning salt and letting it ferment in crocks for about two weeks, later freezing it. Cabbage is also shredded and frozen for use in chow mein. Cucumbers are pickled in vinegar brine and refrigerated. Pumpkin is peeled, cubed, baked and frozen to boost the nutrition of chili and for making the occasional pumpkin pie.

“This is work,” says Budahn. “I don’t know if we are saving much money because of the labor cost. But we know the produce is fresh and without preservatives and the students like it because they grow it themselves.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo aims to reduce carbon emissions by 34% at its foodservice and facilities management sites by 2025, a goal it says it will reach through such changes as converting cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and using energy-efficient HVAC systems.

In announcing this endeavor toward sustainability, Sodexo—which manages more than 32,000 sites globally—noted that over 7,200 of its sites in North America recycle aluminum and paper, and 8,640 recycle cardboard.

Ideas and Innovation
sushi plate

We wanted to add sushi, but that’s not really my expertise. So we found a great local company that offered to put three sushi chefs on-site every day. They supply the ingredients, and if we meet the minimum revenue each week, than we receive a percentage of sales. We have been exceeding the weekly minimum sales, which we track in our POS, in two days.

Managing Your Business
coffee barista

Whether it’s a morning routine, an afternoon pick-me-up or an evening social ritual, few things are as universally appealing as coffee. Sixty-five percent of respondents in Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report say they ordered a cup of hot joe from a foodservice location in the past month, and 59% say the same about cold coffee. Everyone has an opinion about what makes it good, whether it’s a low price, a unique blend or a friendly barista.

“Coffee is so personal. There are a lot of people that are Dunkin’ fans. There’s a lot of Starbucks people,” says James Dravenack,...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

FSD Resources