Lake to River Food Hub ties farmers and schools together

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CANFIELD, Ohio — Chicken wings were on the lunch menu at Canfield Local High School, but the meal was part of a plan to connect students, farmers and food.

The Lake to River Food Hub of Youngstown, 30 Mile Meal program and the Canfield Local Food Service worked with Steve Montgomery, a Columbiana, Ohio, farmer, to provide students with chicken wings for lunch.

Local lunch

The day was designed to let students meet the farmer who produced the chicken and get them to participate in activities that promote food literacy.

The Lake to River Food Hub of Youngstown is making it a goal to get area farmers into the schools.

“It’s important we make the connection between the farmer and food,” said Gianna Cioffi, manager of the Lake to River Food Hub.

Another goal of the local lunches is to engage students in what local food is. The students approved the chicken wings and appreciated the fact that they were grown locally.

“The chicken wings were great. It’s important that we support our local farmers,” said Anthony Vross.

Another student, Brittney Hayden, said she can see why local food is important in her diet because she feels it’s healthier because she knows who produced it and where it came from.

In addition to taste testing, students gained some farm knowledge as well. A raffle was held where students could guess the amount of grain it takes to feed one chicken from hatching to production.

“The No. 1 goal is to help local farmers, educate the public about local, healthy food sources and tie the community together,” said Cioffi. “It takes all of us working together to make this work.”

Lamppost Farm

Montgomery owns Lamppost Farm and produced the wings from his White Mountain broilers, which is a Cornish hen cross.

He said he was excited to participate in the local lunch day and wanted to educate students so they understand what goes into chicken production and how it’s not as simple as they might think when they simply go to the grocery store and purchase chicken.

Montgomery said it is important that everyone, not just students, know that local farmers are producing food and how local foods benefit their diet as well as the overall economy.

By participating, he said farmers get the chance to influence what the youth in the Mahoning Valley are eating.

Working with schools

Montgomery said his wife, Melanie, has been working with Heartland Christian Schools in Columbiana to introduce local foods, and he wants to spread the word in more schools.

“We love to be a part of getting local foods into schools. It’s where they eat, so it’s important to introduce it there,” said Montgomery.

The Lake to River Food Hub of Youngstown is currently working with Crestview Local schools, Hubbard Local schools, Springfield Local schools, Youngstown city schools and Warren city schools to get local foods on the menu regularly. Cioffi hopes to get to a place where farmers can depend and plan on at least one sale a year to a school.

Supply and demand

For example, the chicken wings at Canfield Local schools eliminated Lamppost Farms’ current supply.

Montgomery acknowledges that his farm alone can’t meet the demands in the schools in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties but wants to work with other farmers and provide the schools with what they need.

The next local lunch day is planned for the Crestview Local schools May 26. Ground beef produced by Premium Pastured Meats owned by Seth Sharp will be served.

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