Amy Jo Kinyon
What do sunscreen and maple sugar have in common? On the surface, few comparisons can be drawn. Jenna Burns and her team of volunteers, however, combined the two and spent Wednesday afternoon handing out free samples of each at the Greater Lansing Athletic Conference track meet at Maple Valley High School.
The sunscreen is in support of Relay for Life and skin cancer awareness month. Many attendees expressed their delight at having the protectant readily available. The sugar samples, from the Benedict Family Farm, are part of a three-phase grant awarded to Burns and the Maple Valley School District.
Burns has been working with a grant from the MSU Extension Office to connect local growers to students through a Farm to School grant. The program website detailed that the grant is part of the National Farm to School Network and centers around efforts to serve local foods in school and early childcare and education food programs.
The first two phases of the grant explore the local growers and producers in the area and introduce their product to students and the community. Phase three integrates their products into the school system. For Burns, this means spending time cultivating relationships with growers and community members. Countless hours at events, like Wednesday’s track meet, have been spent networking and promoting the program.
Burns is optimistic for the programs and said the importance of proper nutrition in education is impossible to over stress.
“We want to help kids be the best they can be — academically and socially by providing them with the proper nutrition,” commented Burns between handing out samples and information.
Burns, along with her co-volunteer, MaryAnne Curth, have initiated a number of programs in the Maple Valley School District, each with the goal of helping the community thrive.
“We have a lot of fun doing what we’re doing,” Curth said. “We want to make the area better and the people who live here happier.”
Creating partnerships and building opportunities are just a few of the far reaching goals Burns has for this grant and other programs she is working on in the community.
“This is where I graduated from. I would like my community to have the best offered,” Burns explained.