Peosta Elementary students learn about a locally made product on Local Food Day. Students had the chance to sample syrup from Big Timber Maple Syrup out of Bankston.

A partnership between the Western Dubuque School District, the Iowa State Extension office and a local maple syrup producer gave students at Peosta Elementary the opportunity to sample locally made goods Oct. 14. Local Food Day celebrates local food producers and allows the students to learn about where their food comes from.

Big Timber Maple Syrup, owned by Brian and Lisa Wolf of Bankston, came prepared for their day with the students.

“Living in such an agriculturally based region,” Kyle Gansen, Director of Food and Nutrition Services at Western Dubuque, said, “it is important for students to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. Clif Cameron forged a great relationship with the ISU extension office through his six years here at Western Dubuque, and I hope to continue to build on that relationship.”

Students learned the difference between artificial and real maple syrup. The whole process of how it is made into syrup and the different tastes were two main focuses. Visual aids were used as well to show students what happens before the syrup makes it to the lunchroom.

“Our school district has always tried to secure as many local products on our menus over the past five years,” Gansen said, “We have worked on initiatives with partners for locally grown items such as sweet corn, apples and many other produce options.”

The Midwest is limited by growing seasons which affects when the district can offer local produce. CO-OPs such as the Iowa Food Hub have made it easier to support local farmers.

“Through our partnership with the ISU Extension we were able to connect with the Wolfs,” Gansen said. “The district has used their syrup in the past as an ingredient in some menu items as well as a local alternative to the traditional school syrup offering at the high school level.”

Gansen believes opportunities like these are important because it allows the younger generations to make better choices in the long haul.

“When these foods are highlighted through school lunch, and students can make the connection back to families in their community, it engages them more in the eating process, encourages them to make healthier choices and allows them to try new things,” Gansen said.