Foundation funds food harvest, prep equipment for DPSCD

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Vegetables will play an even more prominent role on lunch menus in the Detroit Public Schools Community District with a $264,000 grant to buy farm and kitchen equipment.

The grant from the Life Time Foundation is over three years and will fund more than 40 pieces of new farm and kitchen equipment to help produce and harvest vegetables grown as part of the Detroit School Garden Collaborative that feeds the District’s students and families.

The check from the charity whose goal is to improve school nutrition will be presented Thursday at the Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men, 2001 W. Warren. Life Time was started by Life Time — The Healthy Way of Life Co., which operates seven Life Time Fitness locations in the Detroit Metro area.

“The Life Time grant ensures our district has the appropriate equipment and tools needed to plant, grow, harvest, process and prepare fresh vegetables that are destined for our students’ meals,” said Betti Wiggins, executive director of the Office of School Nutrition.

Wiggins said the equipment will increase the district’s effectiveness and efficiency, as well as save money by eliminating services they would have had to pay a company to do.

Several schools are involved in the project.

“We have the Douglass processing kitchen and small processing kitchens for salad greens and vegetables at Mackenzie, Noble, Drew and Burns,” Wiggins said. She said most important is the “mechanization of Drew Farms with the purchase of tractors and farming implements.”

The school district is one of several around the country that are getting support from the Life Time Foundation. The charity also funds efforts in eight districts in California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas, said Jason Thunstrom, vice president of corporate communications.

“This nets out to 174,000 students and approximately 20 million meals this school year,” he said, adding the foundation is poised to double those numbers next years.

Thunstrom said the foundation’s work in Detroit began late last year and is focused on removing seven ingredients from school meals: trans fats and hydrogenated oils; high-fructose corn syrup; hormones and antibiotics; artificial colors and flavors; processed and artificial sweeteners; artificial preservatives; and bleached flour.

“We’ve found that, when these ingredients are removed, we end up with the wholesome, real food all children deserve,” he said.

The district was selected, he said, because Wiggins “has been doing much work to improve nutrition in the DPSCD schools over the years.”

Several pieces of equipment already have been bought, including a tractor, rototiller, cultipacker for planting seeds, centrifuge system, packaging table, electric salad spinners and a refrigerated unit. More equipment will be bought in the future.

“We are on this mission so every child receives the healthy food and the healthy start in life they deserve,” Thunstrom said.

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