Moscow School Dist. chosen to test out "Farm-to-School" pilot program

MOSCOW, ID - The Moscow School District is participating in a pilot nutrition program created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Palouse Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains what changes are being made to the school's lunch menus, and why this is beneficial to the local economy.

I'm at the Lena Whitmore Elementary School in Moscow to find out what they're serving up for lunch.

"Today is our kick-off, you know, for the Farm-to-School Program so we're featuring local and regional products and kind of trying to have the spotlight on Idaho products," said Moscow School District Director of Student Nutrition Mimi Pengilly.

Moscow is one of five school districts in Idaho that was chosen to test out the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Farm-to-School" pilot program.

"There is a lot of produce grown on the Palouse, so I think that we were selected because we had a good chance of success," said Pengilly.

Wednesday's lunch menu included Idaho beef, local milk, and produce from Juliaetta.

"There's no comparison, it's so much better," said Pengilly. "And as long as they're available, we'll take advantage of that local product at a better price, and better quality."

Pengilly said they'll feature local menus like this one once a week. But the cooks include local products in their meals as often as possible, which boosts the local economy.

"Well, if we're going to send money I'd just like to keep it locally, rather than send it to distant farmers," said Lena Whitmore Elementary School Cook Barbara Heimgartner.

And even though these students may be too young to understand the benefits of eating local, they seem to enjoy it the most.

"If they have an empty stomach, they're just not going to learn," said Heimgartner.

All the schools in the district are participating in this pilot program, and it will continue until the end of the school year. The Moscow School District provides breakfast, lunch and snacks to about 2,500 students a day.