Foodies take trip around mid-MO to encourage local food in schools

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COLE COUNTY - A bus full of people from different areas of food service will be traveling around mid-Missouri Friday.

MU Extension partnered with the Department of Agriculture for the first Farm to School Mid-Missouri Road Trip. The event involves several dozen food service experts visiting food providers and educating them on how to bring locally grown produce to their menus. 

Farm to School is an organization that started in 2010, according to its website. Regional MU Extension Horticultural Specialist James Quinn said, however, it hasn't really taken off yet.

"This has been a long time coming," Quinn said. "The USDA has a number of programs they are trying as an incentive to try and get schools and organizations to use local produce and there was actually some specific funding to try and get local produce into schools."

The idea of a road trip came to Quinn at a conference in June after hearing about its success in other states. 

"I thought it was a great idea," Quinn said. "It worked out really well because the Missouri Department of Agriculture has hired a person to focus on farm to school so we were able to collaborate."

The bus is scheduled to stop at a farmers market, a school garden, the Central Missouri Produce Auction and several more.

At each of the spots, participants will get to talk and hear from local farmers.

"There is one farmer we are going to talk to about what it would take for him to be interested in selling to a school," Quinn said. "He'll tell us how it would work for him to deliver to schools and for them to order from him."

Quinn said one of the reasons for the road trip is to get communication going between food providers and schools.

"The key to get more local produce and other types of local foods into cafeterias," Quinn said. "It's for different parties to work together and understand how they can work together to get the product there."

He said some both schools and farmers have been reluctant to work together in the past, but that increased communication between the two could help build partnerships.