Students eat locally grown foods at school

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ASHLAND - Students across mid-Missouri celebrate Farm to School Month by eating locally grown food in the cafeteria.

Southern Boone Elementary school hosted a Farm to School event October 12 where local farmers brought in their products for breakfast and lunch. 

Students enjoyed meals prepared from locally produced food such as Show Me Farms ground beef, Stanton Brothers eggs, and fruit from the area. 

The elementary school cafeteria also purchases Missouri grown rice for its dishes.  

Greg Yielding, member of the Missouri Rice Council, said the council partners with Opaa! food service to do educational programs in school and incorporate rice into the school lunch program.

Yielding said the council provides both brown and white rice.

"We were skeptical that kids weren't going to eat brown rice. It's not something they're used to. But since they've been having it in the schools, Opaa! has been telling us the kids are eating it, especially for breakfast," Yielding said. 

Opaa! is a food management service that purchases food from local farmers for cafeteria meals. Opaa! serves in five states and works in 117 Missouri School Districts alone.

Sheila Frost, VP of Child Nutrition and Outreach at Opaa!, said there are many benefits eating locally grown food.

"Nutritionally, we feel like bringing these items to the students that are locally grown, especially in their own community, and supporting our local farmers is very important," Frost said.

Dustin Stanton, co-owner of Stanton Brothers Eggs, said he enjoys being a local producer which allows him to meet his customers in person and answer any questions.

"That's something you can't get in a grocery store," Stanton said.

Stanton provides eggs to fifty different outlets in mid-Missouri including MU and Columbia College.

Opaa! hosted a series of events throughout the month to highlight the different vendors it uses. 

"I think its important that the students understand where their food comes from and how its grown and whats in season," said Cassie Denning, Director of Nutrition Services for Southern Boone School District.

Denning said students should understand food sustainability and that it is not necessarily a unlimited resource.

"When students understand that, they are less likely to waste food, they become more conscious about what's on their plate, what's healthy," Denning said.

You can find more information on Farm to School Month at the national website.