Pasta salad

Foods such as this pasta salad served to students during the school year used a variety of vegetables from area farms. This farm-to-school meal effort has been expanded to the summer feeding program as well.

Hutchinson Public Schools’ Summer Feeding Program is proudly sourcing produce from nine local farms in the area. Kids can look forward to filling up on the freshest cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, melons, sweet peppers and more this summer.

What’s special about foods from our local farmers? First, freshly harvested fruits and vegetables are not only packed with vitamins and minerals, they also contain phytochemicals. These naturally occurring compounds give extra protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Phytochemicals are responsible for the vibrant colors and delicious flavors found in fruits and vegetables. All of these components are most concentrated when they’re fresh.

Next up, flavor. Tomatoes, for example, fresh from the farms have a noticeably better flavor than what’s purchased from a grocer. This is true of all local produce — stay tuned for snappy broccoli, that old-fashioned carrot flavor, and cooling cucumbers.

The farm-to-school program allows us to highlight fruit and vegetable varieties not offered by distributors. The best taste is often found in the varieties that don’t handle the long-road shipping practices.

Summer school students and families picking up meals will receive all the awesomeness farm-to-school offers. It’s a win-win of supporting our neighboring farmers, keeping our resources close to home, and feeding kids in our community the freshest, most nutrient-dense and flavorful food.

I strongly recommend and encourage families in the community to take advantage of the school’s summer feeding program. Kids age 1-18 all can eat for free. Included in bulk packed meals for pickup only, besides local fruits and vegetables, will be school breakfast and lunch menu favorites. Italian dunkers, chicken sandwiches, barbecue pulled pork and omelets, just to name a few. Most entree items will come frozen, but easy-to-follow heating instructions are listed on our website at isd423.org/summer-feeding-2020/.

The program is open June 9  through Aug. 13, excluding the week of July 5-9. Pickup days are 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays at Hutchinson High School, behind the school at Door 8. Visit the school website at isd423.org or look for posted flyers around town for more information on the summer feeding program.

My hope is that you find value and connection by accessing locally-grown foods through our new farm-to-school program. Throughout this journey your kids will learn more about seasonal eating, participate in their own wellness, try new things, and have opportunities to build more hands-on life skills in the garden.

Enjoy the gems of our seasonal abundance at school and at home.

Lesli Mueller is director of food service at Hutchinson Public Schools. You, Your Kids & School is a twice-a-month column from School District 423.