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August 4, 2009

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MRH's Role in Collaboration Featured at Dedication Ceremony at SLU

When students in the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District return to school in a few weeks, they’ll notice some new, healthy changes to their lunch menu. Many processed, frozen and canned foods will be replaced with locally grown, fresh produce thanks to a $248,000 “farm to school” grant to Saint Louis University from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Through the innovative program, SLU nutrition and dietetics students and interns will prepare the local produce for the lunches in a converted industrial kitchen at the Salus Center. By the end of the three-year grant, 20 percent of the food the district serves will come from local farmers.

SLU’s nutrition and dietetics faculty and staff, local farmers, representatives from the Missouri Foundation for Health, MRH students and administrators, and Representative Russ Carnahan kicked off the collaborative program at the Salus Center. Recipes made from locally-grown produce were available for guests. (See photos from the event here.)

Five MRH high school student ambassadors also have been intricately involved in the planning of the new program. They spent the summer interning in the department of nutrition and dietetics where they learned about local gardening, food reparation and healthy eating. They also learned entrepreneurial skills, taken farm tours and helped in the Maplewood Farmers Market. (Read their blog here.)

In addition to sprucing up school lunches, the program will:
Educate: The new facility will also house a culinary education program where district foodservice workers and middle schools students will learn how to prepare healthier foods.
Teach job skills: An entrepreneurship program will give MRH high school students the opportunity learn critical skills such as designing a business plan, preparing for interviews and creating a student-run business selling products made using locally grown produce.
Support local farmers: SLU will work with the Missouri Farmers Union to select which foods on the current menu can be replaced with local produce.

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.