J500 Media and the Environment

Cordley students whet their appetites for local food by jmuselmann

Excitement was in the air today at Cordley Elementary. It was the familiar, childlike vigor the comes from trying something new, and it was shared by both adults and kids alike as they filed into the gymnasium — not the cafeteria — for their first-ever locally sourced lunch. The term is “farm-to-school,” and judging from the content faces forking up the lasagna, it hit the spot.

The lunch was the culmination of a week of learning for the students, which spanned teaching about the benefits to local and organic foods to fields trips picking strawberries and gathering eggs from local farms (both of which were popular in the salad bar). In surveying the participants of the grand experiment about the typical lunch fare in the cafeteria, I got a sea of downward thumbs and “baaaad.” Fourth-grader Ainsley Agnew said it was just “grossness,” while on my other side was Pria Jean-Baptiste, also a fourth-grader, giving me a minutely detailed lesson about how to make the pasta from scratch. I should have taken better notes.

But the satisfaction didn’t come just from the good food, which included vegetarian and beef lasagna, bread sticks, salad, Iwig Family Dairy milk and a strawberry rhubarb confection, but also in the hard work to plan for it. Linda Cottin, the event’s organizer, said the meal had been in the works since November.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of community support, and I am happy that there’s a way to do this without all the work and make this an everyday function in the schools,” she said.

Rick Martin, head chef for the event (and at Free State Brewing Co.), agreed, saying that “After having this model, it will be easier” to accomplish in other schools and on a more permanent basis. That indeed was the consensus in the organizers’ post-lunch discussion, noting that Lawrence has the nearby farms and public interest to achieve it.

In a sense, the setting was typical: rambunctious kids at lunchtime, cracking jokes and playing with their food before politely running outside for recess. But it wasn’t. For the grown-ups — smiling volunteers and paparazzi abuzz to capture the moment — it was an accomplishment in the face of convention. Lindsey Kellenbarger, a teacher, also brought her camera for the momentous occasion, knowing the potential impact this seemingly ordinary lunch could have on the students.

“I got a kid to eat a turnip that I didn’t think would. That’s exciting,” she said.

—Jacob M.


Be a Prouder Lawrencian by sachikom

“Poor Sachiko. You have to eat McDonald and pizza everyday.”

I’m a student from Japan. Before I left Japan, many of my friends mentioned fast food and felt sorry about an unhealthy and tasteless diet I’d go through.

Now, I can say they’re not right, at least in Lawrence. I like to go to downtown restaurants that serve a variety of food around the world. I love to cook using fresh ingredients from the downtown farmers’ market. After coming to Lawrence, I’m converted to a supporter of local food, too.


Photo Credit: Farmers’ Market in Downtown Lawrence Lawrence farmers’ market is open on Saturday morning and Tuesday and Thursday evening.


The farmers’ market, a community garden and restaurants that specialize in regional ingredients, Lawrence offers great venues for local food. The benefits of local food vary from taste to health, to the environment and local economy.

To be a prouder Lawrencian, how can we support local food and build a more sustainable food network in Lawrence?

Search Lawrence Sustainability Network and Local HarvestThey tell us farms and restaurants that specialize in regional ingredients.

Support local farmers through a subscription service: Small-scale local firms are vulnerable to risks such as bad weather and pests. Daniel Dermitzel, farmer and associate director of Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, said we can help local formers by sharing those risks and subscribing to Community Supported Agriculture. Under the subscription service, organized farmers collect a fixed fee from customers and provide products periodically. The amount of share depends on the performance of those farmers. Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance is available for the Lawrence area. 

Volunteer for the Lawrence farmers’ market: It’s a great way to share your passion with customers and vendors. 

In the long run, we should create more opportunities for farmers to sell their products.

Open the farmers’ market in winter: Although not many products are available during the winter season, opening the markets would help stabilize farmers’ income and satisfy customers’ demands. The Christian Science Monitor reports winter indoor markets that have become popular in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. 

Create a local food kiosk on the KU campus: The kiosk could sell fruits, snacks and meals made of locally grown ingredients. It can be promotional, too.

Start a Farm-to-School program in Lawrence public schools: Farm to School is a program which schools provide meals using locally produced foods. Schools also provide learning opportunities, such as farming, gardening and studying about nutrition. This program would enable local farmers to sell their products and raise students’ awareness of food and health. 

Your participation wanted! And don’t miss Lawrence farmers’ market! It opens on Saturday morning and Tuesday and Thursday evening from mid April to November.

By Sachiko Miyakawa