Introducing our Mid-South Partners!
In 2022, Eat Real, along with partners Communities Unlimited and Healthy Flavors, received a USDA Farm to School Grant to strengthen farm-to-school programs throughout the Mid-South region of Tennessee and Arkansas.
Communities Unlimited is a nonprofit based in Arkansas that has been working tirelessly over the last five decades to strengthen rural communities through economic resiliency trainings, environmental justice campaigns and importantly for our work together — healthy food and farm programs, with Healthy Foods Coordinator, Brenda Williams, leading the partnership. Healthy Flavors is a farm just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, that was established by wife and husband pair Nadia and Dan Spatz in 2012 to provide healthy, fresh food for their communities.
Together we formed the Mid-South Farm to School Partnership and are working to develop a blueprint and a collaboration map to bolster sustainable, healthy and fresh school food programs. Let’s meet the four incredible districts at the center of it all!
Paragould School District
Paragould School District, led by Assistant Food Service Director, Katrina Brewer, serves over 3,000 students in Northeastern Arkansas and is excited to learn more about new ways to ramp up their existing scratch cooking program. “I am always looking at ways to improve our program!” shares Katrina.
Trenton Special School District
Trenton Special School District, located in Northwest Tennessee, is led by Child Nutrition Director Lisa Sieber-Garland, and provides the majority of their 1,400 students with breakfast and lunch daily. Lisa looks forward to continuing to provide their students with local food, as they have done through their Healthy Meals Initiative grant, telling our team, “I want to serve our students the very best tasting meal that is locally sourced and meets our nutrition guidelines. I want our schools to be their favorite place to eat.”
“I want to serve our students the very best tasting meal that is locally sourced and meets our nutrition guidelines. I want our schools to be their favorite place to eat.”– Child Nutrition Director Lisa Sieber-Garland
Milan Special School District
Milan Special School District, also in Northwestern Tennessee, is proud to source menu items locally for the 2,000 students they serve. “It is important to grow and cultivate the mindset for the future of our children,” shared Child Nutrition Director, Vickie Dunaway. “Being healthy is a journey that begins with our roots.”
Weakley County Schools
Weakley County Schools is excited to improve meal quality through this partnership. A little further northwest in Tennessee, the School Nutrition Department provides meals for nearly 4,000 students and are looking forward to learning how they can increase student access to local foods as well as provide more menu items that are scratch cooked.
Local School and Farm Tour
Recently, Dan Spatz of Healthy Flavors visited Milan, Trenton and Weakley County school districts in Tennessee. Together they reviewed the current state of local procurement and the needs and desires of the Child Nutrition Directors as well as existing challenges and barriers to ramping up local sourcing programs.
“We witnessed the incredible care these nutrition directors have for their students, which nevertheless shines through the seemingly overwhelming tasks of being nutritionists, menu planners, hiring managers, procurement specialists, food safety experts, business planners and advocates through food for health and wellness.”– Dan Spatz of Healthy Flavors
The group ate lunch in two of the school cafeterias – Trenton High School and Weakley County High School – and enjoyed four varieties of sweet potatoes grown in Gleason, TN.
Samantha Goyret and Caroline Ideus from the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network facilitated the visits and accompanied the group to three farms, Blackberry Pond Farm, Weakley County Livestock Farm and Steele Plant Company, meeting the farmers who are excited for more local procurement opportunities with school districts in the region.
We look forward to continuing to deepen our work in this area and sharing these exciting advancements in child health and nutrition with all of you!
About Eat Real
Eat Real nourishes the future of American school children by putting real food on the table at school, at home, and in local and national policy. Our award-winning K-12 certification program provides Food Service leaders with the framework and support they need to make their school menus delicious, nutritious, and planet-sustaining. Alongside our community of food system advocates, chefs, and parents, we spread the word about the power and urgency of serving real food at every meal. And we leverage our unique vantage point to push for system change, advocating for healthier policies and higher food standards at the local, state, and national level so every child can look forward to a healthy future.