A series of workshops across the state will encourage more locally grown food in Minnesota schools and cafeterias.
The eight workshops, which begin Monday and run through April, will be a chance for both farmers and food service directors to learn more about Farm to Cafeteria programs.
The workshops will connect buyers with growers, said Stephanie Heim, who works in Community Food Systems at the University of Minnesota Extension.
"For food service directors, one of the primary challenges is just figuring out which farmers in their area are willing and excited about selling to them wholesale," Heim said. "And same thing with farmers. A lot of farmers are growing food but may not know who their markets are, which institutional buyers have an interest."
The Farm to Cafeteria workshops are being coordinated by the University of Minnesota Extension in partnership with several other groups.
The Farm to School effort has grown significantly in Minnesota. A report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found the number of Minnesota school districts working with local farmers rose from fewer than 20 in 2006 to 145 districts in 2011.
A list of the eight Farm to Cafeteria workshops can be found online.
Other institutions, like hospitals, are interested in the local food program as well.
"In addition to health care settings, worksites are also getting ... really interested in how to source more locally grown foods," Heim said. "And child-care settings as well. They're also thinking about, how can I source more local and regional foods for the kids that eat with us every single day?"