When most people think of school cafeterias, they’re more apt to think of sloppy joes than homemade pickles. But Hopkins cooks are in the process of changing that stereotype.
On Monday, Tonya Christianson, West Junior High’s food service supervisor, demonstrated how the school is making pickles from cucumbers bought from Minnesota farmers.
The pickles are just one small part of the district’s Farm to School program—which promotes healthy eating habits, supports nearby small- and medium-sized farms and boosts the local economy.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson and other visitors stopped by to see the program in action.
A $35,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture and Blue Cross Blue Shield helped make Monday’s pickle recipe possible. The grant paid for crucial food-preparation equipment, such as a Robot Coupe slicer and cafeteria-size immersion blender.
Hopkins’ Farm to School program is one of 145 similar initiatives in the state. Ehlinger said such public health efforts are a key part in combating diseases like obesity and diabetes.
“The only thing we’re going to be able to do to change is a vaccination—not a vaccination against infectious diseases, but a vaccination against chronic disease,” he said, comparing the Farm to School program to more-clinical approaches.