Grant Fosters University, School District Healthy Eating Partnership

The Missouri Foundation for Health has awarded Saint Louis University a $248,000 "farm to school" grant to improve school lunches and teach business skills in the Maplewood Richmond Heights district, while boosting local farmers in the process. The grant is designed to encourage children to eat locally grown fruits and vegetables and to get those fruits and vegetables to the schools.

SLU will work with the Missouri Farmers Union to select area farmers who can replace foods on Maplewood Richmond Heights' menu with locally grown produce. The goal is that, by the end of the three-year grant, 20 percent of the food the district serves will come from local farmers.

That food will be processed and prepared in a converted industrial kitchen at the Salus Center, on the SLU Medical Center campus, and then delivered to Maplewood Richmond Heights schools to be served as part of lunches at its early childhood center, elementary, middle and high schools. The Salus Center facility also will house a culinary education program where district foodservice workers and middle school students will learn how to prepare healthier foods that are high in protein or are locally grown. Students will also launch their own business, selling a product they create using locally grown produce.

Maplewood Richmond Heights students will get a say in what they eat at school. They will submit their favorite family recipes for judging, and the winners will face off at a tasting. Students will vote on which recipes they want to see on school lunch menus.

SLU dietetic interns already work with the school district to plan menus and provide nutrition education.