Meet the School Cook Who’s Connecting Students to the Farm

Vonda Schulte is the head cook at Dakota Christian School in Corsica, South Dakota. Every weekday, she cooks lunch from scratch for 90 students. She loves connecting with the kids, talking to them about new foods and healthy eating. Vonda also happens to be a farmer. She says these two parts of her life overlap much more than you might think.

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Vonda and her husband, Ken, have grown soybeans, corn and wheat for more than 30 years in Geddes. She also is an avid gardener with an impressive variety in her plot. Growing the food that ends up on her students’ lunch trays helps her connect their lunch to the farms and gardens where the food began.

“I raise everything from Brussels sprouts to raspberries,” said Vonda. “I like exposing the kids to new things. We always have a little trivia. I will bring in something from my garden, like Swiss chard, and quiz them to see if they know what it is. It’s fun to have conversations with them. It helps them to get to know me and a little more about their food.”

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Those conversations teach the kids that their food doesn’t just come from the grocery shelves. The South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council’s Hungry for Truth is all about connecting South Dakotans to the farmers who grow their food and Vonda tries to do that everyday. She hopes that the students take the lessons and conversations home to their parents.

“I think it’s very important for South Dakotans to connect with their food,” she said. “I make that connection every day at home and at work. I want to be there for my fellow South Dakotans who have questions about how food is raised.”

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Because everything is cooked from scratch daily, the lunch menu at Dakota Christian changes with the season.

“My goal is to try to incorporate as many fresh ingredients as I can. I try to tie in what’s in season and fresh,” said Vonda. “The goal is to cook these foods in a way that kids like. I was able to get most of them to say they loved broccoli at least once. It was one of my greatest accomplishments.”