More Dairy in the Cafeteria
Local yogurt made on-farm is serving as an important part of Farm to School month during October.
Dave and Carolee Rapson’s family has been making Country View Dairy yogurt on farm for about two years. Many schools in Northeast Iowa have already been serving their products, so incorporating it into the Farm to School activities was a good fit.
Farm to School month focuses on eating local foods as part of school lunches along with conducting school-based activities to promote healthier eating. Food Service Directors in local school systems will offer local items on the school lunch menu during the month. Nutrition education information will be provided to students, and they will learn the benefits of using Iowa-grown and produced foods.
“Farm to School is about connecting kids to agriculture – all types of agriculture. People usually think of local fruits and vegetable for Farm to School, but dairy, meats and local grains can also be part of the experience. In fact, in the Farm to School curriculum developed by the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, we educate children about local food products from the five food groups,” said Teresa Wiemerslage, ISU Extension and Outreach, Regional Program Coordinator.
Bob Howard started working with Country View Dairy last spring. He works with the schools to coordinate orders, handles customer service, and does outreach such as local tasting events.
“Working with public schools has been a great experience,” said Howard. “Overall, it has been an easy process. They are willing to support local producers and they like that we have many flavors to offer the kids and they really seem to enjoy the taste of the yogurt.”
Timing was good with the local food movement building momentum, and having the students enjoy Country View yogurt helped them with name recognition.
“The kids absolutely love it,” said Carol Stanbrough about serving Country View Yogurt to the students of North Fayette Schools.”
Stanbrough, Food Service Director at North Fayette, said they are in their third school year of serving Country View Yogurt to students.
“The kids ask for it,” Stanbrough said. “When students see it on the menu they get excited. There are really only a handful of students who don’t like it.”
Jane Bullerman, Director of Food Services at Decorah Public School, agrees that serving Country View yogurt works well. Bullerman and her staff serve about 1,700 students every school day.
At Decorah, yogurt is served in 4-ounce cups at breakfast every day, it is sometimes served at lunch and sometimes it is made into treats such as parfaits. Decorah students can also purchase items a la carte to go with their school lunch, including individual serving containers of Country View yogurt and Country View Greek yogurt.
The Decorah food service staff even makes their own granola students can purchase separately to go with their yogurt. Bullerman says that parfaits are a particularly popular grab and go item on their breakfast menu.
Bullerman says strawberry and raspberry are the most popular flavors among their students, but both Bullerman and Stanbrough said that the students like the variety of flavors, which also include vanilla, lime, peach, blueberry and black cherry.
In addition to local public school districts – Allamakee, Central, Decorah, North Winneshiek, Oelwein, Postville and Turkey Valley – Country View yogurt is also available at Luther College in Decorah, Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Clarke University in Dubuque, University of Dubuque, University of Northern Iowa, Macalester College in St. Paul and Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. They are actively seeking more school and college accounts.
Many school districts in Northeast Iowa have made a strong effort to incorporate more fresh and local items into their menu, often having their own school gardens and working with local producers of fruits and vegetables. Bullerman says Country View yogurt is the first item they were able to bring to Decorah students besides fruits and vegetables.
“That is really what it is all about, getting the kids to eat healthy,” said Bullerman.
Wiemerslage said it is usually easier for schools to serve local fruits and vegetables when they first start focusing on Farm to School. “We are fortunate to have a local source of yogurt that meets all the nutrition requirements of the National School Lunch Program.”
Country View yogurt only contains non-Homogenized Grade A pasteurized milk, nonfat dried milk, pure cane sugar, natural flavor and natural color, and includes live and active cultures. Many national brands of yogurt available through distributors for schools contain high fructose corn syrup, gelatin, artificial colors and thickeners, things that school lunch menus need to avoid with the new school lunch program standards.
“It is a great product for schools. It is all natural and does not have any of the colorings common in other brands of yogurt sold to schools. The kids sure seem to love the taste.” Wiemerslage said, “It sells itself.”
“I really like the fact that it is local, it doesn’t have additions, the flavor is great and the kids ask for it,” said Stanbrough.
Country View yogurt is ordered directly from the farm where it is made, so it is another phone call or email for food service personnel to make, but Bullerman said she doesn’t mind. “It’s worth it because it tastes great, and serving local items is awesome.”
Bullerman and Stanbrough both said that they enjoy working with Country View.
“They are super easy to work with,” said Stanbrough.
Country View offers eight flavors in the original line of yogurt in 5-pound tubs. The yogurt is a great source of protein. “We use low-fat 1 percent milk so that helps keep calorie counts down,” said Howard.
Country View Dairy started crafted their own yogurt in the fall of 2011. They currently make yogurt three days a week and are using about 5,000 pounds of milk a week; they will consider their processing facility at capacity when they are processing five days a week. Their 150 Holsteins produce about 70,000 pounds of milk a week; the remaining milk is shipped through Wapsie Valley.
It takes one pound of milk to make one pound of yogurt.
During the school year, about 40 percent of the yogurt Country View produces is sold to schools, mostly in 5-pound containers, said Howard.
In the summer, they make up for some of the reduced school sales with sales at farmers’ markets.
Country View is now working with a distributor, which has helped them to grow their presence in retail stores. In March, they were in about 11 stores, but they now sell their products about 50 retail settings, including four chain stores: Fareway, HyVee, Moore’s IGA and Quillin’s.
They are also growing their presence in food cooperatives.
In 2007, Iowa lawmakers passed Farm to School legislation to establish a program that would link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers; provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa grown food for inclusion in school meals and snacks; and to encourage children to develop healthy eating habits and provide them with hands-on learning opportunities, such as farm visits, cooking demonstrations, and school gardening and composting programs. October was named National Farm to School month in 2010.
The schools are receiving support from the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) in planning the activities for the week. Providing support for Farm to School Month in addition to the Food & Fitness Initiative are the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Luther College and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Source: Kelli Boylen, www.dairystar.com, 10/28/13.
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