L.A. schools support local, struggling farmers

Local orchardists could lose everything due to a fatal citrus-tree disease.

LOS ANGELES—Down a dusty road surrounded by orange trees and the rolling hills of Redlands, the farmer in a battered straw hat and worn jeans worked his land, just as his father and grandfather and great-grandfather did before him.

Bob Knight remembers pulling weeds from the soil almost before he could read. He was 6 and could barely reach the pedals when he first steered a truck, then began picking and packing the fruit, and checking drip-irrigation systems.

Now 54, lanky and long, Knight tends 67 acres bursting with thousands of orange trees bearing sweet Valencias and seedless navels, knobby Gold Nuggets and deep red Moros.

But on this warm January afternoon, this man whose family has painstakingly cultivated citrus for more than 100 years was planting cauliflowers.

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Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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