Revolutionizing the Cafeteria: Farm to School Impacts Student Well-being and Local Agriculture 

large bin full of red potatoes fresh for farm to school

“Imagine a whole lunch tray with all local and South Dakota-produced items. It’s worth the effort,” says Karla Sawvell, Farm to School coordinator at Huron South Dakota School District.

Just as farm-to-table at restaurants and in your kitchen connect you to local ingredients, the National Farm to School movement provides school children with fresh, nutritious food produced by farmers, ranchers and growers in the state.

large bin of fresh green beans at farmers market

In this week’s podcast episode, we’re going back to school—to the school cafeteria, that is. And although I do ask about good ol’ square school lunch pizza, and the pairing of cinnamon rolls & chili, my guests, Karla Sawvell and Amanda Reilly (Huron School District Nutrition Director) are spilling the beans on how the Huron South Dakota School District is implementing Farm2School.

Listen to Funeral Potatoes and Wool Mittens Season 2 Episode 13 on all major podcast platforms (now on YouTube), or in Spotify below.

In addition to being one of the very few public school nutrition programs that cooks from scratch and bakes all of their own bread, they are striving to serve fresh and local foods to 2,200 students each day. And, they are getting a milling machine so they can even mill their own flour!

You’ll come to the end of this episode knowing:

  • How to champion your school district to cultivate a Farm2School initiative if it isn’t already. 
  • If you’re a farmer, rancher or producer, you can help revolutionize school lunch in your area.
  • How many pounds of cheese, and the secret mixture of cheeses they use, to make 132 commercial-sized sheet pans of pizza in one day.

Grab your pencil box and sharpener, because it’s time to learn how local agriculture and school nutritionists are positively impacting student well-being and benefiting the community. 

See the recipe at the end for Karla’s seasoned turnip fries and dipping sauce.

batch of seasoned turnip fries cooked with Farm to School

Farm to School and the Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program:

There’s a ton of information on those websites including links to grants, planning toolkits, connecting to a network in your state.

love this podcast episode?

You may also like Lauren Schroeder’s episode about growing and donating 7,000 pounds of produce.

Looking for ways to use fresh garden ingredients at home? Use your peppers and tomatoes in Jason’s Sorta Spicy Red Rice, Beef, Beans, and Bacon.

pot of red rice

Crunch up your deli wraps with peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, onion and tomato from your garden.

deli wraps for camping

When your cilantro is out of control, use it to flavor your chicken chickpea salad.

bowl of chicken cilantro chickpe salad

Listen to the podcast episode and contact Amanda Reilly, Nutrition Director or Karla Sawvell, Farm2School Coordinator if you have questions: Amanda.reilly@k12.sd.us and Karla.Sawvell@k12.sd.us.

Sweet wishes,


Seasoned Turnip Fries with Dipping Sauce

Staci at Random Sweets
Even turnips can be delicious fried and dipped in tangy herb sauce.
No ratings yet
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American


Seasoned Turnips

  • 20 lbs turnips
  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, optional
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder

Herb Dipping Sauce

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup avocado mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh marjoram
  • 1 tsp lemon balm
  • 1 Tbsp chives
  • 1 Tbsp dill


Seasoned Turnips

  • Scrub, rinse turnips. Roughly peel turnips, cut into French fry sticks. 
  • For 20# of turnip sticks, heat a tilt skillet and add about a cup of vegetable oil per batch. (more or less to your individual liking, turnips can also be oven roasted, omitting the need for oil and reducing the fat content) Add about 1/3 of the turnip sticks, season liberally or to your liking. Cook until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes per batch.
  • This recipe easily converts to home cooking. Any seasoning blend that is a favorite can be used. These would cook beautifully in the air fryer also.

Herb Dip for Root Fries

  • Makes about 1-1.5 cups (double if making 20 pounds of turnips)
  • Stir together the sour cream, avocado mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Dice or mince the garlic and herbs and stir in.
Keyword turnips

All text and images © Staci Mergenthal • Random Sweets

Tried this recipe?Mention @RandomSweets and tag #OurSweetMidwestLife

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