Contract management firms Café Services and The Abbey Group have joined the Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) Harvest of the Month (HOM) project that commits them to feature a variety of local produce year-round in the combined 89 primary and secondary school dining programs they operate in Vermont. Their participation doubles the number of students and communities served by the HOM initiative in the state and boosting the amount of local produce sold to school nutrition programs.
HOM offers free support materials to help schools promote the use of local, seasonal foods with original illustrated posters, recipes and curricula materials about featured items along with a monthly e-newsletter offering ideas about how to incorporate produce into school meal sites and community celebrations.
“HOM is not only impacting the students by getting more healthy, local foods featured on school menus, it is also giving our farmers a boost,” says Katherine Sims, GMFTS Executive Director. “We recorded local sales of broccoli and cauliflower at 8 to 10 times that of our pilot program last year.”
“The Abbey Group sees this as a win-win,” adds Nina Hansen, School Nutrition Specialist. “We are already committed to local purchasing, but HOM adds a wonderfully designed grassroots way to get kids to try new foods and whole communities thinking about ways to use produce that is grown close by.”
For Café Services President and CEO Brian Stone, the decision to join HOM was clear. “The program makes it very easy to give these seasonal items great exposure in our cafeterias and is a welcome addition to our efforts to bring healthy foods to the institutions we serve.”To date the HOM network reaches over 40,000 students at 164 Vermont schools.