I don’t know about you, but I have a really, really long to-do list.

Some say I like to be busy and others say, well I will just keep those comments to myself. Two of the biggest tasks on my list involve finding ways to support local producers and coordinating our catering of healthy food to kids.

Farm to Child Care

Wooden Spoon is lucky to be part of the food environment of several child care centers. Four years ago, I realized that there was an opportunity to combine those two ideas and embed Farm to Child Care into our catering operation. Farm to Child Care is a way to link the food that kids eat with where it comes from through the stories of local farmers or hands-on experiences of the kids.

Some centers use gardens and others highlight food served at mealtimes. I wanted to be part of this movement, which seemed to make sense since Wooden Spoon uses several local items in our food.

I wanted the kids to learn about Kaylee at Moody Bees and Terri from Valley Veggies. I wanted the kids to know Sonnek’s potatoes can be eaten mashed or sliced

I started with a few flyers about our local producers, but that was just information I pulled from their websites or Facebook pages. Enter the long-standing to-do list item: I really wanted to create a resource that would be kid-friendly and provider-friendly; something that the staff could use with the kids while they were eating our yummy granola or awesome squash.

I wanted the kids to learn about Kaylee at Moody Bees and Terri from Valley Veggies. I wanted the kids to know Sonnek’s potatoes can be eaten mashed or sliced, while also teaching them about the nutrients that potatoes provide. And what about those orchard apples during the fall? Alternative Roots Farms took great care to raise those!

Roots, Shoots and Boots

The idea stayed on that long to-do list, buried below menu creation, business pivots, and lots and lots of items that needed more immediate attention.

Recently, I had this light bulb: I knew of a remarkable community asset that could help me. Roots, Shoots and Boots is a local food policy council and local food network that serves Mankato and North Mankato.

In general, food councils look at how the local food system operates, identify issues within the food system, and work with local stakeholders to make system and policy recommendations to support a functional and equitable food system.

Roots, Shoots and Boots is so much more.

The group works together to find systems approaches or policy solutions to overcome problems in our local food system. I am proud to be part of this dynamic and inspiring group of women: Gretchen from Blue Earth County SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Partnership), Laura from Living Earth Center (formerly Center for Earth Spirituality & Rural Ministry), Leah from Nicollet County SHIP, Kelly and Rachel from University of Minnesota Extension, and now Danika from Minnesota Valley Action Council. Others participate as they can, and bring energy to specific topics like hunger response, food as medicine or local producer viewpoints.

I believe that we have the power to change our local food environment if we work together. But it needs to start with asking for help when we have ideas and may not be the best people to implement those ideas.

I have been part of this group from the beginning. And yet, during the last four years, I didn’t once think about asking these amazing women for help with my idea!

I finally got out of my own head with the project, and guess what? Next month Roots, Shoots and Boots is going to roll out a series of flyers that child care providers can use to link the food that kids are eating with local farmers. While I am pretty darn excited about these flyers, Roots, Shoots and Boots is busy doing lots of other things that you might be passionate about regarding our food system. Some of these things include:

  • Discussed proposed federal changes to SNAP & how to best contact federal representatives
  • Facilitated community conversations about hunger and social determinants of health
  • Increased local support for the Blue Earth County Community Farm
  • Developed and implemented a Food Rx pilot study to address chronic disease and food insecurity among clinic patients
  • Led Power of Produce Club activities at the Mankato Farmers Market to increase consumption of local produce among children while supporting local farmers.

I believe that we have the power to change our local food environment if we work together. But it needs to start with asking for help when we have ideas and may not be the best people to implement those ideas.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t ask them for help on all my ideas. That would be exhausting. But this group is committed to a healthy food system that is equitable and accessible from seed to farm to table to compost. Roots, Shoots & Boots seeks to create and ensure access to safe, affordable healthy food while also helping to support the local food economy and local agriculture.

What can you do to get involved with this group?

First off, you should follow them on their Facebook page.

Watch for calls to action to support our local food system and protect access to food by our most vulnerable neighbors or read about current issues that impact our food system.

You can also reach out to our administrative lead (and flyer creator) Gretchen Mauerman at Gretchen.Mauerman@blueearthcountymn.gov. She helps coordinate the requests and can help connect folks who are interested in getting support from the coalition or from one of the leadership members.

Additional Links

Natasha Frost
Natasha is the owner of Wooden Spoon, a restaurant in the heart of Old Town Mankato. She is also a public health lawyer at a national non-profit. Natasha identifies as a cisgender, able-bodied white woman and an alcoholic in active recovery.