MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As part of National Farm to School Month, Minnesota is encouraging more farms and schools to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the cafeteria.

The state is even offering grant money to get things started.

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Barb Schank, the director of food services for the Waconia School District, was eager to give a tour Monday of the kitchen at Clearwater Middle School.

The pasta maker there is the kind you’d find in a fancy restaurant. It’s there so that school cooks can make homemade pasta, using locally produced ingredients.

The school named the machine Martha.

“This machine incorporates local flour, local eggs, local cheese, local vegetables, that we source from around the area,” Schank said.

The ravioli on Monday’s menu was made with fresh spinach and tomatoes.

The eggs the school uses come from Tracy Braun’s farm in nearby Cologne.

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“I think we are starting a trend that you are hearing and seeing at school districts now,” Braun said. “We have had a lot of school districts come and try to start a program like this.”

Clearwater Middle School also has its own garden, and its cooks use the vegetables grown there.

In the last four years, the state has funded 51 farm-to-school projects, in an effort to get more fresh vegetables, fruits and meats on the school lunch menu.

“In a lot of cases, part of the barrier to that is equipment,” said Paul Huginin of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “They may not have coolers, they may not have freezers, and they may not have food processors. Our grant program helps them purchase that kind of equipment.”

The state has $500,000 set aside for the farm-to-school grant program this year.

And the Center for Prevention of Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering an additional $125,000 in funding.

The application deadline is Nov. 4.

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