2016 Finalist

This project has been selected as a finalist in the Food Stewardship category:

wadena school food project

Project Summary

This complex project has accomplished the establishment and ongoing operation of a deep winter greenhouse, a hoop house, and a deep-mulch outdoor garden to supply food and education for the children of Wadena.

The local citizens' organization ( STEP ) led by its two founders and primary officers, Del Moen and David Evert, conceived, planned, initiated, and guided a three phase project to grow local and whole food for, and within, the Wadena school system.

Of further importance to STEP was their objective of integrating curriculum components on plant biology and whole foods throughout all grade levels of the schools.

Through remarkable individual stamina Moen and Evert assembled the extensive partnerships necessary to accomplish such a large goal. Then, they located and secured the majority of the project funding as well. They undertook this sizeable effort simply as involved community members with a recent commitment to initiating healthy, locally-grown food for children.

Project Partners

  • STEP (Del Moen and David Evert)
  • The Wadena Elks Club
  • School District 2155
  • Wadena Public Health & SHIP
  • The U of M Central Regional Sustainable Partnership
  • Wadena Future Farmers of America & Richard Muckala
  • U of M faculty, including Terry Nennich
  • U of M Extension Educator, Susan DeBlieck
  • Sustainable Farming Association, central chapter
  • The Pine and Lakes Local Foods Group

How did the project partners work together?

  • STEP leaders Del Moen and David Evert conceived, initiated and managed this entire project.
  • School District 2155 approved the plan, provided faculty and student participation, and sought secondary funding.
  • The Central Regional Sustainable Partnership provided the initial planning funds and U of M advisory connections.
  • Terry Nennich is a U of M high tunnel and greenhouse expert who supplied expertize every step along the way.
  • The Sustainable Farming Association came on-board offering periodic fellowship, support, and advice.
  • The Wadena Elks Club undertook the construction labor for the deep winter greenhouse as a gift to the schools.
  • Wadena Public Health and Erica Keppers identified and facilitated important project funding through a SHIP grant.
  • The Future Farmers of America and their instructor built greenhouse accessories, plus provided labor and planning inputs.
  • Extension Educator Susan DeBlieck was a major source of knowledge and information.
  • The Pine and Lakes Local Foods Group raised initial awareness about the importance of action to bring whole food to the region.

How is the project groundbreaking?

Wadena County consistently ranks among the lowest in Minnesota regarding health statistics and family income. Considering these overarching local liabilities a general consciousness about issues of food quality and food security was not even on the radar (outside of those ongoing efforts by Wadena Public Health).

Today, through this project, every classroom is introduced to hands-on education in the greenhouse about food quality and nutrition. Fresher foods produced in the hoop house and garden are being added to the school cafeteria menu, and preferences are shifting.

All this has developed from the work of two men who decided they were capable of initiating groundbreaking change for their community.

What are the project goals?

These were the project goals...

  1. To provide a healthy food supply and a healthy food consciousness within the Wadena schools
  2. To unite multiple area organizations on the common project of better food, and better nutrition awareness, for children.
  3. To accomplish local experimentation on techniques for small-scale alternatives in growing food.

What are the project outcomes?

The following lists known project outcomes.....

  1. A greenhouse and garden based whole foods curriculum now runs through all age levels of the schools.
  2. There is school-grown, fresh food production supplementing the school cafeteria menu nearly every month of the school year.
  3. Student preferences are indicating a shifting toward whole foods.
  4. The energies of unrelated, diverse, and very separate partners were successfully united in this common effort for community betterment.
  5. Finally, increasing student awareness grows into increasing community awareness on food production and food quality. Better understanding of health and environmental implications is reaching into area families with their children, through the front door.

Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Google Map »

Parking Map »

Metro Transit »


Awards Home »

2017 Award Winners »

About the Awards »

Award Categories »

Guidelines and Eligibility »

Evaluation Criteria and Judging »

Sponsor the Awards »

Past Finalists and Winners »

Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners