The Bald Eagle FFA, the Bald Eagle Food Service Department, the Bald Eagle Administration, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Market and Development partnered together to bring a PA Preferred/Farm to School Day to the Middle/High School on October 19, 2023.

Laura Frye, Bald Eagle Food Service director, applied for grant funds from the Bureau of Market and Development to support a PA Preferred/Farm to School Day.  The grant writing process included a general outline of what the meal might look like as well as agreeing to some grant terms.  This plan that started early September, involved purchasing local foods and having the agriculture students help prepare them for the student bodies lunch meal.  In order to qualify a food product for PA Preferred, the product must contain 75% of ingredients that can be traced to a Pennsylvania origin. Laura Frye, and Bald Eagle FFA advisor/agriculture instructor, Todd Biddle, decided to provide the students with a lunch that at least 75% of what the students eat could be traced to a PA origin.  In addiiton, program coordinators wanted to students to see the value in purchasing local food and note differences in local food quality, including attributes such as taste.

In addition to Pennsylvania milk, Pennsylvania sweet corn, Pennsylvania potatoes, and Pennsylvania apples were incorporated into the meal.  While the apples were from the school’s orchard, sweet corn was purchased from Ways Fruit Farm, Port Matilda, and potatoes were purchased from Autry farms, Zion.  All Mr. Biddle’s students had general agriculture class periods incorporated into the curriculum over the past month.  Students guided the purchased unhusked sweet corn through a series of steps ending with frozen bagged corn.  Students picked the apples in the school’s orchard and processed them into apple pie filling.  Purchased potatoes were washed and cut so they could be served as fresh cut fries.  The meal items were given to the food service staff to prepare the meal.

While enjoying the meal, students watched a five minute movie prepared by the FFA leadership class under the direction of eleventh grade student, Carter Thompson.  It explained to the student body the importance of PA preferred and how their meal was considered PA preferred.  At the end of the meal, students were sent a link to a survey they filled out with some basic questions about the meal.  The goal was to see if the students saw a difference in meal quality between this meal and other meals they have eaten at school.  Since a PA preferred meal in many instances cost more money to prepare, the project coordinators wanted to see if the students felt the extra cost (covered by the grant in this case) was worthy.  Furthermore, students learned what the PA preferred logo means as a result of watching the video created.

While the agriculture students are still collecting data from today’s lunch to share with the Bureu of Market Development, here is a quote that summarizes a student’s perspective, “The lunch was of much higher quality than other lunches and was also much more filling. As someone who needs to eat a good healthy lunch to fuel myself for sports practice after school, the lunch was much preferred over the typical school lunches.”