By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – The Big Sky School District Wellness Committee has made steady progress since it began efforts to introduce more farm to school practices into the district in December 2016, when it was bolstered with the addition of community members, teachers and parents particularly passionate about food.

In April, the committee experimented with providing supplementary fresh fruits and vegetables during school lunch. In May, they hosted the first Family Cooking Night where 10 families came together to prepare a simple, healthy meal reflective of seasonal, local ingredients that was paired with an educational component.

This year, in response to the results of a parent-student survey conducted last schoolyear, the Wellness Committee has committed to bringing in higher quality foods with an emphasis on local, seasonal and non-processed goods. Beginning this year, all beef served in the school will be Montana-raised.

Wellness Committee Chair Whitney Littman and two Ophir Elementary School second graders have fun with activities surrounding the newly adopted Harvest of the Month program. PHOTO BY LYDIA BARTOSZEK

These changes have been funded in part by a private grant, a 10 cent increase in the price per meal and pursuing creative cost-saving measures across the board, with the overall goal to increase participation in the school lunch program.

The cafeteria will offer more fresh and healthy options, and the menu expanded to include more diverse, nutritious meals that appeal to children and staff. The school is also instituting “Meatless Mondays,” when the menu is dedicated to optimizing grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits; and “Fresh Fridays,” when a full salad bar, homemade soup and fresh baked rolls will be offered.

The district has also added a third lunchtime block in the elementary school to provide a better eating environment.

BSSD has also committed to participating in the Montana Harvest of the Month program which will incorporate a featured local, seasonal vegetable into the school lunch menu a minimum of three times per month. October, which is also National Farm to School Month, will showcase kale.

Big Sky School District received a grant from the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation to work with
Gallatin Valley Farm to School to provide nutrition education around the Harvest of the Month program for grades K-5.

“When I listened to the fourth graders engage in conversation about local farmers being important so that we can reduce our carbon footprint and preserve vitamin and mineral content by being closer to our food source, I knew the Harvest of the Month education content was relevant,” said Whitney Littman, chair of the Wellness Committee and a school board trustee. “We are seeing some exciting changes; I think the kids are enjoying it too.”

Littman added that the committee is asking a lot of school lunch manager Kathy Hudson, with the implementation of changes that demand time, creativity, new product procurement and price controls.

“We are all working together to see if we can change the way families view school lunch,” Littman said. “In Kathy we have a ‘lunch lady’ that integrates her own garden harvest into the kids’ meals. She made coleslaw with her very own homegrown cabbage—not many school districts can say that.”

Family Cooking Night will continue in the Ophir Elementary cafeteria on the second Wednesday of each month beginning Oct. 11. The entire community is welcome but space is limited. Call Linda Nell at (406) 995-4281 to register.

The Big Sky School District Wellness Committee meets the first Monday of every month at 2 p.m. in the Ophir Elementary Conference Room. For updates visit bssd72.org.