Allamakee Community School District celebrates Farm to School Month

Ashley Turk, Food & Fitness Initiative FoodCorps service member for the Allamakee Community School District, shows students from Jill Roffman's preschool classroom at West Elementary School in Waukon harvested produce from the school district’s raised beds. Submitted photo.

In 2010, Congress designated October as National Farm to School Month, a time when schools across the nation celebrate their unique connections to local food. Farm to School Month highlights the importance of improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and educating children about the origins of their food.
In the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD),  students and staff celebrate the month with a taste of local food, thanks to collaborative projects   supported by the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.
The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) enriches community health in the six-county region of northeast Iowa through programs that increase access to local, healthy food and create opportunities for plenty of physical activity. FFI, in partnership with area districts, has been awarded five AmeriCorps and three FoodCorps members who work directly with schools. Service members build capacity and deepen engagement through nutrition education, creating active classrooms, increasing local food procurement, and tending school gardens.
FFI FoodCorps service member Ashley Turk is returning for a second year with the Allamakee Community School District. “I’m excited to be back,” Turk says. “The students and staff have been amazingly supportive of new wellness projects and ideas.”  Throughout October, Turk will work to promote and implement Farm to School festivities.
ACSD Food Service Director Julie Magner and her staff will offer local foods, such as pork and cucumbers, on the menu every week. Each school cafeteria will hold a taste test, where students sample and then vote on new foods. The high school 4-H Food and Fitness Youth Team and Coach Stef Perkins will teach West Elementary first and second grade classes about local watermelons. The ACSD seventh through 12th grade afterschool program will tend the school district’s raised beds, harvest produce and save seeds. Preschool and Head Start students will learn about and sample local broccoli.
Allamakee CSD partakes in Farm to School activities year-round, not just in October. Jessica O’Connor’s high school Ag classes and FFA members grow vegetables in the school district's greenhouse. The harvested produce is given to food service staff and incorporated into school meals. Jill Roffman’s preschool and Teresa Reeg’s Head Start students learn about a new food every month, cook with it, and occasionally host visits from local producers. The elementary schools take students on farm field trips, visiting attractions such as Peake Orchards, WW Homestead Dairy and the Dairy Center in Calmar.
Farm to School programs promote healthy eating habits early in life, and are one of many strategies to curb the skyrocketing national health crisis, according to Turk. She says education about fresh, locally grown foods not only helps students develop healthier lifestyles, it also promotes the vitality of local economies.
Farm to School Month celebrations are one of many steps schools are taking to transform their environments into a healthy learning and workplace for students and staff. For more information about Farm to School in northeast Iowa or the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, visit or contact Ashley Turk at