Morrison Public School District in Morrison, Oklahoma
On September 22-23, 2010, the USDA Farm to School Team traveled to Morrison Public School District in Morrison, Oklahoma, and met with school food service staff, teachers, district administrators, State agency representatives, community members, and farmers to hear what this community is doing with their Farm to School initiative.
Morrison Public School District is a small rural district, located approximately 60 miles east of the city of Tulsa. In school year 2009-2010, the district enrolled 556 students and served an average of 450 lunches per day. Fifty-six percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The district has three schools, one central cafeteria and operates a single self-operating kitchen. Morrison Public School District participates in the National School Lunch Program, the Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the After School Snack Program. In 2010, all four programs used locally grown agriculture products.
This district’s Farm to School efforts began in 2003 when Child Nutrition Director purchased watermelon directly from a local farmer. These efforts gained momentum in 2006 when the Director attended a Farm to School workshop at a State conference hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Education. There the Director met with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Farm to School Coordinator and soon after enrolled in the Oklahoma Farm to School Program, which gave them access to technical support and procurement assistance. The Oklahoma Farm to School Program has helped Morrison Public School District expand over the years to include a wider variety of local products, a Farm to School marketing plan, and stronger connections between food service and the classroom.
Most local food items are procured through the Oklahoma Farm to School Program, but the district also purchases two local products (ground beef and pecans) directly from farmers. In total, the district purchased fifteen local products in the 2009-2010 school year. Those products included: cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, melons (cantaloupe and watermelon), onions, peppers (bell and hot), squash, tomatoes, zucchini, beef, ground whole wheat, and pecans. The district hopes to purchase eggs and asparagus in the near future.
Education programs are an expanding component of the Morrison Public School District Farm to School effort, and partnerships within the district and outside partners are vital to their implementation. In the classroom, elementary students receive weekly “Ag in the Classroom” lessons, which meet the State’s academic standards. The lessons focus on agriculture, physical activity and nutrition, and were developed through a collaborative effort between the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry; Oklahoma State Department of Education; and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Nutrition education is also offered to elementary students during physical education classes. This includes using the cafeteria menu to teach the students about nutrition, and developing songs and exercises to incorporate nutrition and physical activity.
In addition, Morrison Public School District has a strong Future Farmers of America (FFA) program for students in grades 8-12. Lessons include animal science, agriculture exploration and agriculture mechanics. Many FFA students raise pigs, sheep and cattle, and take part in livestock judging teams. In the future, the FFA teacher would like to have a greenhouse and garden program.
Morrison Public School District’s Director of Child Nutrition, Marilyn Williams, encourages other districts to “just get started” as Farm to School is a win-win-win for the farmers, schools, and most importantly, students.