San Diego cultivates farm-to-school harvest

san diego student lunches

Faculty and students enjoy a meal from California Thursdays.

When students in San Diego public schools choose a salad for lunch, there is a good chance they know something about the farms and farmers who supplied the produce. Their knowledge comes from San Diego Unified School District’s Harvest of the Month program, an educational component of its farm-to-school initiative.

Salad bars in 173 schools highlight produce that was grown on farms in San Diego County. Each month, a local fruit or vegetable is featured and students see a short video of a farmer explaining how the produce was grown. For example, last November, the featured produce was organic persimmons from Sahu Subtropicals in Fallbrook, Calif. The district bought the farm’s entire crop—10,000 pounds—of persimmons, which were sliced into wedges and served raw on salad bars.

“Some teachers have been so enthusiastic that they show the videos every month before the Harvest of the Month item is served on the salad bar,” says Ashley Cassat, who handles the district’s farm-to-school education and outreach program.

Currently, 15% of the district’s produce comes from farms in San Diego County, and the rest comes from farms throughout the state. The district communicates to farmers exactly how the produce will be used. This helps to build relationships with local farms, says Kathryn Spencer, who handles the district’s farm-to-school produce acquisition program.

The district also procures hyper-local produce from its Garden Café program. The program, which was developed by the district and the Department of Environmental Health, allows schools to create student-run gardens. Produce is then harvested and included on the schools’ salad bars.

“Students are able to see the fruits of their labor,” Cassat says.

In addition to sourcing produce from farms throughout the state, the district provides its schools with dairy products from Hollandia Farms North in San Jacinto, Calif.

The district also participates in California Thursdays, an initiative led by the Center for Ecoliteracy that encourages schools to provide meals that are completely sourced from California farms. The program is being piloted in 30 schools and students are being offered California-sourced chicken drumsticks, vegetables and rolls.

The district would like to expand the program. However, Spencer says that it will be necessary to upgrade some schools’ kitchen equipment to do so efficiently. The district also plans to source more proteins from local farms in the future.

Another goal of Spencer’s is to create more seasonal-based menus that can take full advantage of the produce grown in the region. The district has already started moving away from some produce not grown in California.

“We will offer [students] an orange grown in San Diego [County] over serving a banana grown in Ecuador,” Spencer says. 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
healthcare foodservice coffee

From Smucker Away From Home.

Foodservice operators face a tall order when it comes to managing coffee service efficiently and profitably, not to mention meeting the standards of high quality and variety that consumers demand these days. According to Technomic’s 2018 Beverage report, consumers purchase an average of 3.8 beverages per week away from home; in terms of coffee, 37% of consumers say they are ordering it more now than they were two years ago.

That means there’s a lot of opportunity for foodservice establishments to attract consumers’ coffee dollars. In the...

Managing Your Business
kitchen staff

If noncommercial operators hope to pull job candidates away from restaurant jobs, here’s what they’ll need to offer, according to a flurry of new research.

The data underscore that pay, once third or fourth on most lists of the reasons foodservice employees leave a position, is becoming a far more important consideration for taking or keeping a job. Financial security is particularly important for members of so-called Gen Z, or what’s being defined as young people age 21 and under, according to the study just released by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (...

Ideas and Innovation
tailgate

Not all the rivalry during a weekend of college football is limited to action on the field. Restaurants are intensifying their competition with college and university foodservices for the game day spreads that fans will set up in stadium parking lots and countless living rooms this season.

Operators ranging from Taco Bell to small independents are adding platters and meal packages this fall to capture more of the big-dollar spending by sports fanatics for tailgate parties and “couch gating,” the at-home version. They’re awakening to the opportunity many C&U foodservice...

Sponsored Content
local produce

From The Henry P. Kendall Foundation.

The Henry P. Kendall Foundation has spent more than 60 years investing in people and projects designed to make the world healthier and more sustainable. For the past six of those years, the Foundation has focused on the health and vitality of the food system within its native New England, with an eye toward increasing the amount of locally sourced food that is consumed in the region.

To do that, the Kendall Foundation looked to large-scale institutions, such as colleges and universities.

“By leveraging the buying power of the...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code