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Extension hosts Guatemalan delegation learning to improve school food programs

the delegation from Guatemala
As students headed back to school in September, University of Minnesota Extension hosted a delegation of officials from Guatemala who wanted to learn how to improve school food programs.

Touring a green houseThe visitors got a taste of Extension’s school foodservice training programs, as well as the ways the SNAP-Ed staff partners with schools to improve the school food environment.

With the support of Extension’s director of global initiatives John Vreyens, Extension's director of family development Programs, Trish Olson, and others, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service selected Minnesota as the host for the delegation's learning experience.

In a cafeteria lineThe delegation visited through a USDA-sponsored program called the Cochran Fellowship Program. Most Cochran fellowships focus on improving agriculture practices. The delegation from Guatemala, however, wanted to learn about nutrition standards, procurement, food safety and storage, school meal implementation and operations, monitoring and compliance, and best and innovative practices. The focus on school food programs is a niche that Extension is recognized for, with award-winning training and support of foodservice professionals.

The schedule included visits in Washington, D.C. with USDA’s Economic Research Service and Nutrition Service, as well as the School Nutrition Association (SNA). In Minnesota, the delegation spent time with the Minnesota departments of education, health, and agriculture; the Minnesota chapter of SNA; the Food Farm to School Leadership Team; and the School Nutrition Training Coalition. The delegation also visited schools offering unique school food programs, commercial food distributors, and a food hub.

The Bemidji Pioneer newspaper covered the visit locally. Lakeland News produced a television segment on the visit.

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