Produce from school gardens increasingly ends up in school cafeterias

Districts in the Denver area are creating partnerships and programs to incorporate local produce into school meals.

DENVER—This year, another Colorado school district will join the growing national movement to bring fresh vegetables from school gardens into school cafeterias, directly onto the plates of the students who grew them.

Just four years ago, only a few schools in the country were doing this. But after Denver Public Schools worked with Slow Food Denver to create food-safety guidelines, the garden-to-cafeteria movement is spreading across the country, and the DPS food safety protocol is now a national model. By May 2013, four states and the District of Columbia had laws to ensure that produce from school gardens could be served in school cafeterias, according to the nonprofit ChangeLab Solutions.

"The kids are really excited about it," said Emily O'Winter, healthy schools coordinator at Jeffco Public Schools, which tested pilot programs at four of its schools last year. "They're so proud. At the salad bar, they look for their tomatoes from the garden."

Experts say the trend is rooted in a convergence of events: the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that targeted childhood obesity; new USDA nutritional requirements that fruits and vegetables be served daily at school lunches; and the growth in consumer demand for foods grown locally.

At first, the idea of serving vegetables from school gardens in school cafeterias was so novel that some school districts wouldn't allow it, pushback that was "primarily a misunderstanding about food safety policy and rules," said Andrew Nowak, the Denver-based director of the national school garden program for Slow Food USA. "People thought kids can't do this because they can't handle a harvest and handle food safely."

Now, demand is growing faster than basil.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in Amherst, Mass., is updating its lunch debt policy to no longer single out students, MassLive reports.

Under the new policy, students with lunch debt will be given the same meals as their peers, regardless of how much they owe. School officials will also be communicating directly with parents of students who have accumulated debt instead of through the students themselves.

The updated policy comes just before U.S. school districts will be required to publicly list their lunch debt policies, per new USDA requirements starting July 1...

Menu Development
eureka

Since California’s state motto is “Eureka!” it seems fitting that a recent conversation with the director of hospitality at San Diego’s Palomar Health led to the biggest aha moment I’ve had in a long time.

I called Jim Metzger in late April with the purpose of discussing Palomar’s recent commitment to the goal of making 60% of its total menu plant-based by this summer. It seemed a lofty number, and I was curious how the public health system planned to get there.

But my personal eureka didn’t come while we were talking about how Palomar had cleaned up the impulse-buy zones...

Industry News & Opinion

Labeling foods with indulgent buzzwords such as “sweet sizzlin’” and “crispy” can lead consumers to make healthier food choices , according to a recent study out of Stanford University .

In the fall 2016 study, researchers labeled vegetables in one of the school’s dining halls using terms from four categories: basic, healthy restrictive, healthy positive or indulgent.

The green beans, for example, were listed as “green beans” for basic, “light ‘n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” for healthy restrictive, “healthy energy boosting green beans and shallots” for healthy...

Ideas and Innovation
sparkling water

Our carbonated soft drink sales at Earls.67 reflect a national trend; we’re continually down on carbonated soft drink sales by 8% to 9% on an annual basis,” says Cameron Bogue, beverage director at the contemporary-casual chain Earls Kitchen + Bar.

The issue with spa water

Many operators are intrigued with the offering, but they are learning that infused water can’t be offered at a cost to guests unless there is added value beyond cut-up fruit. Bogue says, “I was adamant that I didn’t want to charge for spa water.”

Agua fresca alternatives

At the original location of

...

FSD Resources