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Focusing on local food

IA Secretary of Ag Mike Naig visits Iowa Citys Field to Family
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig speaks with a small group including Johnson County Supervisor Pat Heiden, Field to Family Director Michelle Kenyon and Clear Creek Amana School District Nutrition Director Debbie Klein Friday, Feb. 5, at the Field to Family warehouse in Iowa City. Naig visited the non-profit organization to discuss expanding local food systems in Iowa.

IOWA CITY Iowa is well known as an agricultural state, however up to 90 percent of the states food supply comes from out of state. So says Field to Family, a non-profit organization based in Iowa City, which promotes the consumption of locally grown and produced food by providing education, and operating a food hub.
According to Communications and Events Coordinator Julia Poska, Field to Family connects small-to-mid-sized local producers with large wholesale buyers. By managing purchase, aggregation, distribution and delivery, Poska said, the hub helps institutions like schools, businesses, and pantries serve more local food to community members.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig toured the Field to Family food hub, located on Capitol Street in Iowa City on Friday, Feb. 5, and discussed local food systems with Field to Family Director Michelle Kenyon, Iowa City Assistant City Manager Ashley Monroe, Johnson County Supervisor Pat Heiden and Clear Creek Amana Community School District (CCA) Nutrition Director Debbie Klein. CCA became one of Field to Familys first customers soon after the Food Hub was launched in 2019.
Debbie Klein met our food hub sales and partnerships manager Giselle Bruskewitz at a statewide Farm to School conference, Poska said. The district buys local produce and yogurt through our food hub, which manages the purchase, aggregation and distribution of wholesale local foods for large institutions. Debbie is extremely passionate about serving local. CCA cafeterias, she noted, have an Iowa Local Foods Week, rather than just the statewide Iowa Local Foods Day, and play a key role in helping students learn more about what a healthy diet should look like.
In pre-COVID times, CCA also hosted some Farmer Fairs with Field to Family through our Farm to School program, Poska said. At these in-school field trips, students connected with local farmers and learned more about local foods.
During Naigs visit, Klein fielded questions from the secretary and was able to share her passion for the farm to school program, as well as working closely with Field to Family. Klein shared an anecdote with Naig about a student who participated in CCAs summer lunch program. She said the student absolutely loved the local cherry tomatoes on the menu, and until she started taking school meals home, her mother had no idea she even liked tomatoes. It was a great tribute to the impact farm to school procurement can have on students' diets and health, even during the pandemic, Poska said.
"So much of what we do is not just serving the meals," Klein told Naig. "It's the education."
At the meeting, Poska said, Naig learned more about how food hubs like Field to Family leverage public funding to create a more resilient Iowa. They help farmers connect with new customers, make local food more accessible, reduce the environmental footprint of food consumed in the community and keep food dollars local, she said. The nonprofit stressed the importance of state-level investment in local foods infrastructure to Naig. Field to Family receives some support from the City of Iowa City and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.
Theres a certain amount of infrastructure involved in local foods, Naig said at the event. Once you build it, thats a basis to build new relationships between the producers and bigger customers, like our school districts.
More information about Field to Family can be found on their website at www.fieldtofamily.org.