A made-from-scratch school lunch is a thing of the past, right? Not at Marshall Area Christian School, where the menu is local, organic and homemade. Volunteers call it the Daily Bread, and they're starting their third school year of bringing food from farm to table.
"Everything is from scratch," said Lori Skrien, who has been involved with the Daily Bread since the beginning.
Skrien's two children are students at MACS.
Photo by Elaine Zarzana
Lori, Jett and Lisi Skrien show off the kitchen at Grace Life Church, where all the lunches for Marshall Area Christian School are prepared. Through the Daily Bread program at MACS, volunteers cook as much as possible with ingredients sourced from local farmers.
"We cook our own ham and chicken. We save stock for soup," she said.
There are about 10 members of the school community who volunteer regularly to feed the 80-some students.
"The coolest part is knowing that we're helping kids in making healthy food choices for their whole lives," said Skrien. "We're trying to be stewards of God's creation on many levels - our human bodies, the earth."
"I would say at least 75 percent of our food is local," added Skrien. "We drive at the most an hour for things - sometimes farther, but rarely. About six farms supply all our meat, veggies and fruits."
Vegetables come from Earthrise Farm, near Madison, meats from Minnesota Valley Organics near Echo and Pastures-A-Plenty near Kerkhoven, berries from Hilltop Harvest near Vesta, grains from Whole Grain Milling at Welcome and pure maple syrup from Kroll's near Long Prairie.
Skrien has seen a change in the availability of local and organic ingredients over the few years of the program.
"It's getting easier. The nation is taking more responsibility for feeding kids healthfully. The network has grown," she said.
Of course, the closer to home the better, Skrien said.
"One of our families at school has now started a year-round greenhouse," she said.
The school now purchases eggs and some vegetables from Adam and Jodi Decock of Four Seasons Organic Farms in Ghent.
What are the toughest ingredients to find? "Dairy," said Skrien. "We would love to have an organic dairy locally. It's been our biggest cost."
The beverage options at lunch are milk and water, and most children choose milk every day. The group has started a buying club to be able to order large quantities of ingredients that can't be found locally. More than 75 percent of the food served is organic, Skrien said.
Part of the Daily Bread effort is processing, canning and freezing fresh summer produce for use during the colder months of the school-year. Last year the group made and stored gallons of fresh tomato marinara sauce, as well as berries, green beans and other produce.
Skrien is grateful for the teamwork involved in making the lunches possible. "Grace life has been so supportive... just a huge support of this adventure between their kitchen and our school," she said. There have also been some challenges. "How to make it a financially sustainable program... None of us have experience in any food related business," said Skrien. The group recently received a grant from the Farm to School program that allowed them to purchase more shelving, a new freezer and food processor and some kitchen utensils, all of which will aid in processing and storing food for winter.
But of course, the big question is: Do the kids like it? "It's all the same items that are kid-friendly," said Skrien. "Just with great ingredients."
And what do the kids themselves say? Skrien's son Jett said, "All my friends really like it."
"Yeah, most kids really like it," agreed his sister, Lisi.
Everyone's favorite? Pancakes from scratch with local strawberries and sausage, and, you guessed it, real maple syrup.