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School Nutrition Professionals Experience Farm to School

By: Heather Berkoben

  • Monday, April 17, 2023
  • 3 Minute Read   


Though it’s common knowledge that dairy milk comes from a cow, many people living in urban areas have not had an opportunity to visit a dairy farm. Dairy Council of California partnered with National Dairy Council to provide a behind-the-scenes tour of a local dairy farm to 32 school nutrition professionals. The event, hosted during the pre-conference workshops for the School Nutrition Association’s 2023 School Nutrition Industry Conference in San Diego, California, gave participants a hands-on farm to school learning experience.

Heather Berkoben PresentingSchool foodservice professionals are no strangers to rapid change and pivoting on a dime. An unprecedented amount of rainfall that left the local dairy too muddy for an in-person tour necessitated a quick change of plans, and the dairy farm tour became a virtual dairy presentation. The shift to a virtual farm tour was made possible through a partnership with California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) and Konyn Dairy in San Diego County. Frank, owner of Konyn Dairy, joined the school foodservice professionals at the conference to share what goes into bringing milk and dairy foods from farm to school.

During his presentation, participants were able to virtually see where Frank stores feed for his 880 milking cows. Just like school foodservice professionals, dairy farmers also take great care in providing well-balanced, high-quality meals for their cows. Some of the ingredients for a cow’s mixed ration include spent grain from local breweries in the area, old bakery grains, almond hulls and citrus pulp and peels. This practice makes smart use of natural resources by upcycling nutrients from food byproducts that are either indigestible or undesirable for humans, a fact that surprised several participants. 

The Value of Dairy Foods Emphasized

Newsroom_PoppyseedsSpring2023_ChartAs part of the virtual farm tour, National Dairy Council shared how most Americans are falling short on the recommended servings of dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and that the dairy gap is evident at a young age. Schools are the leading source of dairy for children and 77% of daily milk intake for low-income children comes from school meals. School meals provide students with at least two opportunities to consume milk, which is the number one food source for 3 out of the 4 nutrients for concern: calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

Next, attendees were able to go outside to meet Cinnamon, a 3-year-old dairy cow. Steve Miller, a Dairy Council of California Mobile Dairy Classroom instructor in southern California, delivered a 30-minute assembly that he gives to elementary students every day. Mobile Dairy Classroom, the original farm to school assembly, brings agriculture to elementary schools, teaching students new vocabulary, the anatomy of the cow, how milk travels from farm to table and the importance of healthy eating and physical activity. The assembly wouldn’t be complete without Steve trying to squirt the front row while demonstrating how to milk a cow! Kids young and young at heart go crazy and love this part of the assembly.

Feedback from the 32 school nutrition professionals in attendance was overwhelmingly positive, with 92% of participants reporting that the virtual dairy farm tour met or exceeded expectations. In their own words: 

  • “It was a cool experience! I was questioning participating after the tour was cancelled but I'm glad I didn't.” 
  • “Fantastic job even though we were unable to attend on farm. Thank you to all.”

As a nutrition organization, Dairy Council of California collaborates with partners to elevate the health of children and families through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits. Funded by California’s dairy farm families and milk processors and under the guidance of California Department of Food and Agriculture, Dairy Council of California is comprised of registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition education, agriculture literacy and communication experts who engage with a variety of stakeholders in school, health and community settings, working together to achieve nutrition security. To learn more about our Farm-to-You programs, visit HealthyEating.org/F2S

Originally published in Poppy Seeds Magazine, the original journal for the California child nutrition profession, for the Spring 2023 issue.


Heather Berkoben

Heather Berkoben

Heather, Community Nutrition Adviser, supports school districts by providing expertise, resources & strategies to build healthier school communities.