Feeding Colorado supports local food in Mancos schools
Nourish Colorado, a statewide nonprofit committed to the Colorado Local Food Program, helps 31 Colorado schools provide local food to students. Although the local food program launched two years ago, Nourish Colorado has been operating since 2009, where it was known as LiveWell, and changed its name to Nourish Colorado in 2020. “Local food is fresher,” said Rainey Wikstrom, consulting chef for Nourish Colorado. “Fresh food is more nutritious, tastier and better for children, local farmers and producers.
She said one of the challenges of supporting districts with local food is supporting the infrastructure so they have the right equipment, kitchens and training.
Her job also involves being a matchmaker for what local suppliers can provide to schools. “This grant just strengthens their bottom line and allows them to make a little extra money to be able to buy things like beef from a local rancher,” Wikstrom said. “What we really see with children and learning about nutrition is that when you teach children about nutrition, that’s really the best way to achieve positive health outcomes. » While Nourish Colorado supports farm-to-school efforts statewide, the Mancos School District has worked to ensure its students are raised locally.
On October 3, Colorado Pride Day, Mancos schools prepared local meals to serve all students, 25 staff members and about seven parents. “It was great, we served local beef tacos, Colorado apples and Olathe candy corn,” said Kacey Armes, Food Services Director for Mancos Schools. “We make our own local green chili sauce using locally roasted green chilies.
Then we have a range of produce on our salad bar – kale, lemon cucumbers, purple peppers – and local salsa from one of our local food hubs – Tap Root Cooperative by Mosca. It’s lunch and for the Colorado Proud breakfast, the school has biscuits and gravy with local ground pork from Sacred Song Farms, scrambled eggs from Yoder Family Farms in Monte Vista and fresh peaches.
The Mancos School District also offers a supplemental culinary program that incorporates local dishes into its offerings and accompanies the lunch program. Since they do not have classrooms specifically designed for culinary education, students share the kitchen for learning purposes.
The Culinary Companion Program is one of Mancos School’s pathway courses where students receive a certificate for the profession they have studied. If students successfully complete the culinary program, they will graduate with a ServSafe Manager certification – Colorado requires one in a commercial kitchen to have this certification. Students must also complete community service projects each year to complete the course.
This year they served chili and tortillas at the Mancos Cowboy Half Marathon. Armes said with her new title this year as food service director, she has expanded her responsibilities to learn about state requirements and grants. She also learned about all the different regulations and how to manage her team. She worked her way up from kitchen assistant to principal to the former district superintendent to where she is today, the six years she has worked for the Mancos School District.
She said in addition to the Nourish Colorado grant, the school also received another grant called the Local Food Cooperative for Schools, awarded through the USDA. Currently, the funding is unrestricted until next year, but according to Armes, this is the last time the Mancos School District will receive this funding. This is the second year the Mancos School District has participated.
Last year they received $2,058.48 and this year they received a little more than $20 more than last year, or $2,083 for the entire school year. “It’s all made possible thanks to our farmers, grants and of course the lovely ladies I work with in the kitchen,” Armes said. “It was a team effort.”