Program Overview 


Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center's (MMFEC) Farm to Institution program connects schools, colleges, hospitals and other food service establishments to Montana producers and processors to expand market opportunities for Montana businesses. MMFEC works to increase access to healthy, local food by processing local fruits and vegetables and developing value-added products that make it easier for institutions to serve local foods. 

Program History


MMFEC’s Farm to Institution Program is a result of the 2008 Flathead Indian Reservation Food and Fitness Project. Increasingly schools and other institutional settings are being asked to provide more and more of our youth’s dietary needs. A recommendation that emerged from the initial two-year community assessment was that increasing health education and access to nutritious fresh foods in the schools is an important and necessary next-step in improving the health of our community members.

In 2011- 2012, MMFEC began developing the Farm to Institution program. MMFEC worked with the Western Montana Growers Cooperative (WMGC), a regional marketing and producer cooperative, and Kalispell, Ronan, St. Ignatius, and Polson School Districts on the pre-planning, production and processing of five fruit and vegetable products. The project focused on purchasing second standard fruits and vegetables. MMFEC cut carrots and wedged apples for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program (FFVP), pitted and froze sweet cherries, wedged and froze apples and blanched and froze squash cubes for the school breakfast and lunch programs. During this time MMFEC evaluated production needs and purchased equipment for peeling, dicing, slicing and packaging produce in order to develop efficiencies in processing. MMFEC also collaborated with the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center on the development of the Montana Lentil Burger.

                                     

In August 2011 MMFEC became a host organization for an AmeriCorps VISTA service member through Grow Montana’s FoodCorps for Rural Montana Program. The FoodCorps VISTA focused on local food access and nutrition education with area schools and successfully delivered through MMFEC approximately 7,000 lbs of processed fruits and vegetables for Ronan, Polson and Kalispell School Districts’ FFVP.  MMFEC also froze approximately 13,000 lbs of sweet cherries, butternut squash, and pumpkin puree to be provided to schools throughout the remainder of the year via WMGC’s distribution network. MMFEC coordinated the networking between area school district food service, WMGC and MMFEC. These relationships resulted in MMFEC processing nearly 25,000 lbs of fruits, vegetables and beef produced by WMGC and procured by school districts. MMFEC’s processing infrastructure created new markets for WMGC resulting in an additional $20,000 in sales for second quality fruits and vegetables that without processing would have little to no market value. The 2011 farm-to-school pilot resulted in solidifying relationships between WMGC, MMFEC and area schools, which readied partners to continue expanding the farm-to-institution program. 

The Farm-to-Institution Team continues to work with western Montana School Districts and WMGC to increase local procurement. Accomplishments since 2012 include annual Montana Made Meals, coordinated weekly local snacks for FFVP, preserving more summer produce--such as peas, green beans, and broccoli--for use during the school year, and piloting new products such as a Montana beef-lentil crumble. In addition, through MMFEC's FoodCorps Service member, over 650 Mission Valley students were engaged in food, nutrition or gardening education.

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