In partnership with Purdue Extension, the Indiana Department of Education, and the State Department of Health, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Indiana Grown program is working to connect school food service directors with farmers to get local food in your community’s school cafeteria. Heather Tallman, Indiana Grown’s Membership Development Program Manager, says they received a grant to create a directory of farmers willing to sell to schools to distribute to those food service directors.
“There’s one thing we’ve heard many times from institutional and school food service buyers that they do not have time to do the research and chase down farmers in their area that are qualified to sell to schools. And the same holds for the farmers. They are busy doing what they do. They do not have time to contact school food service buyers in their area, so our hope is to bridge the gap here.”
A survey is available to fill out now that will get your name in the directory. Tallman says it’s available to anyone who packages, raises, grows, or produces any kind of food that they would like to sell to local schools.
“Now the caveat is that they need to be qualified to sell to a school. So, what that means currently is that they need to be GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified. Right now, there’s a whole lot of efforts in place to get more produce growers GAP certified through trainings through Purdue Extension and Safe Produce Indiana, and they need to be a registered wholesale grower with the State Department of Health; that’s it.”
Tallman told HAT that they are willing and able to help you through those processes of becoming certified.
The survey period closes on Thursday to be part of the printed version distributed to schools; however, Tallman says that a digital directory will be updated and provided to schools as well so folks can complete the survey anytime.
“Our goal is to be able to hand this guide to food service directors this fall and say, ‘Here it is. Let us know how we can help you implement it,’ and also maybe ‘how we can get some farmers there talking to kids about where their food comes from?’”