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Forbord: Farming and nutrition are linked

MILAN, Minn. - Registered dietitian and farmer Mary Jo Forbord once thought nutrition was different from farming.

MILAN, Minn. - Registered dietitian and farmer Mary Jo Forbord once thought nutrition was different from farming.

She wasn't alone.

There was a disconnect between nutritionists and farming, Forbord said at the recent From Farm to Fork forum.

"Food, nutrition and health were all very close to one another, but, through the 1980s, they became distant from ag practices and policies," said Forbord, who coordinates the Morris Healthy Eating program. "But people, communities and organizations are evaluating and linking the components of the food system. That will bring community health through to the broadest sense."

Some of those involved with local foods responded to Forbord's message describing how, as school food service directors, they are using local produce. Farmers are also making connections with schools and customers. Programs like Farm 2 School introduce farmers to students while featuring their produce during school lunches.

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A healthy, sustainable food system emphasizes relationships between production and nutrition, Forbord said. Healthy food systems provide security and local employment.

When Cheryl Rude started her 25-year career with Marshall Public School's food service program, she didn't think students knew where their food came from.

Rude now works as Statewide Health Improvement Program's restaurant project.

Peggy Hill works with the Dawson-Boyd district's food service program. The district started its local foods association by purchasing apples from Swenson Orchards near Montevideo. The apples were a hit with students and prompted the district to add more locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats.

Through the Farm 2 School program, the district added bison to the menu and has served hot dogs, roast and ground bison.

Jeanine Bowman, food service director at Benson and Morris Area school districts, said the school has 12 producers and as many products for the school.

The school food service directors said they like working with local producers and will meet with them as a group to discuss types of vegetables or meats they can offer.

There are many reasons to grow locally grown foods, she said. The foods have exceptional taste and freshness. Locally grown produce can strengthen the local economy, support endangered family farms and safeguard health.

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In her role with the Morris Healthy Eating program, Forbord conducted a survey and found college kids who exercised a lot still didn't eat healthy. They found that people wanted to make changes in their diet but barriers existed.

People wanted cooking classes and to enhance their farmers market, she said.

"We are getting the word out," she said. "...What do we hope to get from this? We hope to get sustained change, a healthier community with fewer overweight people, and locally produced food."

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