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NHS project helping to include local greens in school lunches

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NEGAUNEE, MI— Negaunee High School’s Environmental Science Class has been awarded a $5,000 Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant to support a project that will bring more local food into the lunch room.

After meeting with farmers and food service to better understand their local food system, students designed a project that will continue to provide hydroponic greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce to school lunches. The project includes allocating funds to purchase locally grown foods at the beginning of the 23-24 school year, when fresh produce is readily available from local farms. As the growing season slows down, students will use funds to purchase a third hydroponic system to allow the class to continue to grow their own greens that are incorporated directly into the school lunches.

Along with the new hydroponic tower, students will purchase a vegetable cutter, which can be used to cut a variety of vegetables, such as potatoes.

Those steps are part of a larger plan to provide more access to fresh, locally grown options at the school. Students will work with farmers and food service to provide education and information to the school community about locally sourced food that is purchased through the 10 Cents a Meal program through the UP Food Exchange, an online food hub. Additionally, this initiative deepens relationships between the school and area farms, which will host students for farm tours and leadership activities in the spring.

Payton Ihamaki, an environmental science student, said that she is excited to be a part of the LIFT-UP team this year. She said, “It is not every day you get to be a part of a group that gets to make decisions that impact their own school lunches.”

Will Rosten agreed and added, “Growing and incorporating locally grown foods into our school lunches will present healthy options for the students at NHS for years to come.”

Even though the grant does not cover the entire cost of the hydroponics system, the environmental science students will continue to fundraise in order to obtain the additional funds needed.

Producing and purchasing more local foods to serve in schools is the major goal of the project. As core components of farm to school, local food production and procurement supports farmers in the community and expands the variety of healthy food choices for students.

Project partners on this Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant include Marquette Alger RESA, Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center, Negaunee Public Schools, Little Parsley Farm, UP Food Exchange, and Chartwells.

Nicole was born near Detroit but has lived in the U.P. most of her life. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and attended Michigan State and Northern Michigan Universities, graduating from NMU in 1993 with a degree in English.