In Middleton, Idaho Day is part of the school district’s curriculum. It celebrates all things Idaho and teaches students about our state. One of Idaho’s greatest strengths is our agricultural diversity. So it makes sense that Middleton’s Idaho Day would not be complete without a wholesome, delicious, and creative school lunch menu featuring a variety of locally sourced foods. When planning a meal for over 800 kids, ranging in age from 5 to 18, you undoubtedly have to be creative. In Middleton, that task was taken on by Barbara, Valerie, and their amazing kitchen staff. The team developed a great menu for kids of all ages and the response from students was terrific. Although there were some challenges, the team pressed on to create a tasty and successful Idaho Day meal.
For Idaho Day the food service team developed a unique and versatile menu for each school using items grown or made in Idaho. While some modifications were made for the individual schools, the menus were quite similar overall. At the high school there were four options for students to choose from. Of course, each option featured famous Idaho potatoes, either baked russets or roasted fingerlings from South Wind Farms. Some items, like the fingerling potatoes, were cooked simply by roasting them with olive oil, salt, and pepper in order to highlight the flavor of the potatoes. Other menu items used Idaho ingredients in less obvious ways, like the moist and rich brownie which used dehydrated potato flakes. Other highlights of the Idaho Day menu, for which the majority of ingredients were sourced locally, included beef tacos, fish sandwiches, cheese quesadillas, yogurt parfaits, and apples.
Overall, feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. One high school student told Barbara, “You guys did great. The only thing that would be better is if we had no school today.” Students were interested and took note of the local additions to the menu. Across the high school cafeteria you could see students enjoying the food and talking about the Idaho meal. Some students were a little more skeptical of the Idaho menu. At the elementary schools there were students who did not want to eat the fingerling potatoes because they did not know what they were. Although fingerling potatoes are seemingly perfect for younger kids due to their natural “finger food” size, recognizing the food is an important consideration for younger kiddos.
The glass half full perspective: how great is it that kids are being exposed to unique, locally sourced ingredients at school? We think it is fantastic!
As with most menu planning, Barbara and Valerie were not without challenges. One of the more common obstacles for buying locally is the cost associated with some local ingredients. For Idaho Day in Middleton the increased expense was realized on some ingredients, like local beef that was about 30% more expensive than beef from the traditional distribution sources. In addition, quantity and availability of local foods was tricky due to the early spring season when fresh produce options are limited. These issues certainly did not stop Barbara and Valerie from putting together a complete and affordable Idaho meal for their students.
Buying food locally can seem like an overwhelming task when considering quantity and cost but that does not have to be the case. Barbara, Valerie, and their team showed no fear when putting together a great Idaho menu for their students. The Middleton Idaho Day was an excellent example for bringing the Farm to School mission to life. Seeing the students get excited about local, Idaho food makes it all worthwhile.
Would you like to see your school’s Farm to School activities featured in upcoming blogs and newsletters? Let us know!