Montgomery County Public Schools in Mount Sterling, Kentucky
As students at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) wait in line for lunch, they are greeted by bright, colorful poster-size photographs of local farmers who provided some of the food for the school meals. As the students survey the day’s meal options, they will also find “Kentucky Proud” logos displayed near foods that are locally grown. Both are examples of innovative marketing strategies MCPS employs to promote healthy eating through their Farm to School efforts, as well as provide support and recognition to local agriculture.
On May 27-28, 2010, the USDA Farm to School Team visited with Farm to School stakeholders at MCPS in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. MCPS serves an average of 3,600 meals per day at their six school sites and approximately 65 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
At MCPS, the School Nutrition Director, Julie Tuttle, is responsible for the logistics of the Farm to School efforts. Ms. Tuttle works closely with Tina Garland, the Farm to School Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, to find farmers who will sell local products directly to the school district. MCPS is a small district and Ms. Tuttle operates as the “distributor” picking up produce from the local farmers and delivering the product to each of the district’s six schools. Currently, only one of the local growers is able to deliver to the district.
MCPS started purchasing locally produced apples in 2006 for the school lunches. During the Team’s visit Ms. Tuttle shared her successes of purchasing hydroponic lettuce from a neighboring county. The district’s Farm to School efforts have expanded into the school breakfast with hopes to incorporate local produce into the summer meal program.
One of the great successes for MCPS is how well the cafeteria and the mission of their Farm to School efforts are incorporated into the rest of the school environment. Ms. Tuttle wanted the students of MCPS to know her and feel that they could approach her about the school meals, so along with the photographs of the local farmers, Ms. Tuttle is also featured on the walls of the school cafeterias. Students are now able to recognize her as she visits the schools throughout the district. In the future, she hopes to work with the district’s agriculture teachers to incorporate Farm to School into the classrooms.
MCPS also has the honor of being the recipient of the USDA’s Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge Gold award in all three of their elementary schools. Fresh fruits and vegetables are served every day in all MCPS schools, with local produce offered when available. MCPS was the first school program to become a “Kentucky Proud” member, highlighting their commitment to serving Kentucky grown, raised and processed products. Kentucky Proud is a marketing initiative developed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to promote Kentucky food products.