The NW Food Hub Network is partnering with the Montana Office of Public Instruction to bring a delicious, locally crafted menu item to every K-12 school district in the state this winter: a “Montana Marinara” sauce that highlights the state’s agricultural bounty.

On December 9, leaders from the NW Food Hub Network and Montana’s OPI will gather at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center to witness the processing of a sample run of the marinara leading to over 320 gallons of sauce with ingredients including MT-grown squash, onions, carrots, and more. The cross-sector partnership will bring healthy, fresh, nourishing food to Montana students as well as support the state’s small farms who have faced two difficult seasons due to COVID-19.

“Montana Marinara is a win-win-win product—it supports small Montana farmers, it brings delicious, sustainable, locally-sourced food to students across the state, and it celebrates our state’s history of supporting agriculture.” said Kaylee Thornley, Cooperative Development Director of Mission West Community Development Partners and coordinator of the NW Food Hub Network.

“This partnership is a great learning opportunity to provide our Montana students with locally sourced products. Supplying Montana Marinara to our students continues the wonderful tradition of farm to school foods that support our local Montana farmers,” said Superintendent Elsie Arntzen.

The Montana Marinara product is designed to be affordable and accessible to all K-12 school districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program. The NW Food Hub Network, which recently received a $1 million Regional Food Systems Partnership Grant from the US Department of Agriculture, will source as many Montana-grown ingredients as the recipe allows from small, sustainable farms through the Western Montana Growers Cooperative.

The NW Food Hub Network is a collective of farmer-owned cooperative food hubs in Montana and Washington that seeks to supply institutions across the broader Northwest with local, sustainable products that support vibrant food economies and healthy communities. The NWFHN recently received $1 million in USDA grant funding to further support its small farmers to supply large institutions like K-12 schools, hospitals, and colleges region-wide.