In Hawaii, gardens and cafeterias don't mix

In Hawaii, school gardens are growing in popularity, but using the produce can be problematic.

I’ve never met Glenna Owens, who is the School Food Services Branch director for the Hawaii Department of Education.  But based on comments she apparently made to The Maui News last week, if I did meet her I would be tempted to suggest to her that she consider her words more carefully before she speaks.

In an article entitled, “Cafeteria conflicts for school gardens,” Owens enumerated that reasons why food grown in the gardens set up by the South Maui School Gardens Project can’t be used in school cafeterias. Her reasoning seemed to reflect a bias against school foodservice, which to me appears odd coming from someone who heads up the foodservice brand of the DOE.

A couple of her arguments against the use of garden produce made no sense, while others were contradicted by other suggestions she made. For example, according to the news article, she said that because produce coming from the gardens would not have been tested to measure its nutrition value. So using a vegetable from the garden in a school recipe might throw off the dish’s nutritional profile.

This confused me. First, I didn’t know that each vegetable or fruit served in schools is tested for its nutritional content. That seems like an awful lot of work for any government agency to do. Second, I didn’t know that the nutritional profile of a vegetable is affected all that much by whether it’s grown on a farm or a school garden.

Her second argument was, according to this quote from the article: “If we have a school garden, and the harvest is enough for 20 students but 80 students will be eating, how do you select which 20 students will get food from the school garden?” I just scratched my head at that one.

Finally, she raised the liability issue: “If a child gets sick, a parent will come back to the garden.” I could almost accept that argument, until I read further, where Owens suggests that other things that could be done with the produce are sharing it in the classroom, taking it home to parents or selling it in a farm stand.

Why, I wonder, would there be liability from a foodborne illness only if the produce were consumed in the cafeteria? Wouldn’t there be as much—or more—liability for the district if food sold at a farm stand made someone sick?

If you read further through the article, you will see that school foodservice managers do not agree with Owens. I doubt that bothers her very much. It seems that legislation is the answer, and there are at least a couple of bills before the Hawaii state legislature that could address this issue.

The major goals of school foodservice are making school food healthier and convincing students to eat it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when kids have a hand in growing the food they are more likely to eat it. If getting school garden food into cafeterias would encourage students to eat more healthfully, I should think Glenna Owens should be doing all she can to make that road smoother, instead of blocking the path.

Keywords: 
sustainability

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
torch flame

There’s more than one way to open a wine bottle. When a corkscrew is nowhere to be found, David Brue—chef de cuisine and production manager for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s central production kitchen in Columbus, Ohio—reaches for his butane torch.

“I can never find a corkscrew anywhere, but for some reason, I always have a torch,” Brue says. “Heat the neck of the bottle carefully, and the cork pops right out.”

Managing Your Business
uconn gluten free bakery

When Amarillo Independent School District opened a central bakery , the foodservice team faced years of challenges: getting a handle on equipment, refining recipes and planning for shrinkage, says Michael Brungo, residential district manager of dining services for Chartwells at the Amarillo, Texas, district. Through trial and error, the right solutions at the bakery—which provides sliced bread and sandwich buns for the district’s 55 schools—rose to the top.

Though kitchens in general can be a minefield of issues, bakeries present some unique challenges thanks in part to the finicky...

Managing Your Business
food safety manager paperwork

Food safety can be a lot to handle, requiring plenty of paperwork and diligence to ensure a kitchen complies with health regulations. It’s important to assess the structure of a food safety program —and to know what’s required, and what’s just good to have on hand.

In recent years, as Virginia Tech’s foodservice operations have expanded, so has its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points strategy. The Blacksburg, Va., university doubled its food safety staff to two employees, in addition to a training project coordinator and a manager to teach basic food safety classes to...

Ideas and Innovation
ticket stubs

Every week, our cooks pick an experimental kitchen project to expand their skills, culminating in a Friday contest where they cook a new dish that puts them out of their comfort zone. The winner of the weekly contest is awarded points and prizes. The cook with the most points at the end of the year receives a free ticket to an annual team gathering in Maine, where staffers bond and gain inspiration from coastal menus.

FSD Resources