Education

From Mini Mac Farm to The Peck School's Tables

The Peck School begins working with Mini Mac Farm to bring locally raised, organic, grass-fed meats to our tables!

Healthy minds need healthy bodies, and neither can reach their full potential without healthy meals. Yet, what do we mean by ‘healthy,’ and how far can one school take that concept?
 
The Peck School has long committed to providing healthy options during mealtimes—offering a variety of fresh produce, using healthy methods of cooking, and eliminating chemicals such as trans-fats and MSG. Recognizing that the term healthy means more than simply food itself, we also roast our own deli meats and make soups from scratch (no frozen vegetables here), use cage-free eggs and locally baked whole grain bread. The menu for a recent Welcome Back Dinner, a signature parent event kicking off a new school year, featured nothing but locally produced food and drink. Even our everyday coffee is certified organic and fair trade from NJ artisan coffee-roasters, Black River Roasters.
As research continues to demonstrate that agricultural sustainability and an emphasis on ‘eating locally’ are important for not only healthy meals but also healthy lifestyles, we continue to build upon the idea of what it means to be healthy.
 
The Peck School, through Chef Hunter Stagg of SAGE Dining Services, began building a relationship with Mini Mac Farm in Long Valley, NJ, in an initiative to begin locally sourcing meat that is offered in our deli and entrees. While incorporating local produce and dairy products is no longer an unusual prospect for many independent schools—designing a supply line for local, sustainably farmed, and grass-fed, organic meats is an entirely different ballpark! Peck is the first school to partner with Mini Mac Farm.
 

Mini Mac Farm is owned by Helen and Bill McLaughlan, who bought a run-down farm in 2005 with an idea to, simply, live a healthier lifestyle. Supplying meat for an entire school certainly wasn’t in their original vision—though, as more and more school tours visited the farm, Helen McLaughlan saw young people becoming engaged with the idea of sustainable farming and eating locally. Students in turn would then educate their parents and communities, advocating the singular idea that underlies the most important tenet in environmentally friendly agriculture: “know your farmer, know your food.”
 
Over the next few weeks, Peck’s Chef Hunter will be collaborating with SAGE Dining Services and Mini Mac Farms to establish a program that can meet the needs of our 450-plus diners, rotating menus, and nutritional guidelines, as well as remain viable within the scope of Mini Mac’s production process and commitment to safety and quality.
 
“We will be designing a program that adapts to the larger quantities and variety needed by a school—and thinking about packaging, education, types of cuts, and calculating a smooth production line,” said Helen McLaughlan. “Mini Mac has never had a partnership like this before, so there will be a learning curve as we determine what works best. It’s exciting—and such a pleasure to work with Hunter [Stagg], Matt [MacIsaac, SAGE Dining Services], and so wonderful to see a school invested in good food—healthy food—for its students, and to really understand the importance of ‘knowing your farmer.’”
 
Partnerships like these don’t happen in a vacuum—they are the product of people who are present in their communities, who are interested in working together to find healthy solutions, and who are willing to decisively live their values.
 
“Healthy food is a goal of the Peck community, as is teaching our students where food comes from. Taking the next step to incorporate locally produced, farm fresh meats is a natural progression in our farm-to-table cuisine. Our students have shown they’re interested and want to be educated about local foods—it’s not just the adults. This is really for the kids,” said Hunter Stagg.
 
Teaching is what we do at The Peck School, and that is a broad term indeed. Initiatives such as these not only teach our students about healthy meals and environmental stewardship, but also the importance of living sustainably, of eating locally, and of actively participating in one’s community—an integration of both classroom and life lessons, that will, we hope, ultimately inspire our students to become healthy, principled, and productive adults.
 
To learn more about The Peck School, visit us at www.peckschool.org

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