Farm-fresh food is making a comeback in schools — more than half of California’s 1,000 school districts are engaged in Farm to School activities, according to the USDA’s new Farm to School Census.
However, many programs face similar barriers in procuring and preparing fresh produce in the cafeteria. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers, based in Davis, supports local farmers by helping them get their crops into schools, while also helping school food service staff market and prepare the food for students.
Often, introducing fresh, local fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias means a shift from heat-and-serve items to made-from-scratch recipes. CAFF has released a cookbook made for school food service staff to help make the transition easier and fun.
“Harvest of the Month Produce Handling and Serving Guide for School Food Service,” is a local produce handling, recipe and serving guide to help school food service departments purchase, prepare, and serve more locally grown fruits and vegetables from California farms.
Developed with funding from the Silicon Valley Health Trust and the Central Coast School Food Alliance, the guide provides buying, handling and sourcing information on 34 Harvest of the Month produce items that complement the Network for a Healthy California’s nutrition education curriculum, which can be found at www.harvestofthemonth.com. These fruits and vegetables represent the seasonal diversity of produce grown in California.
The recipes were contributed by the Cathy Giannini, nutrition services supervisor for the Soquel Union Elementary School District; chef Jenny Huston; and chef Jamie Smith, former food services director for Santa Cruz City Schools. Each recipe is scaled for 100 servings and the fruit and vegetable contribution to the new meal components for the National School Lunch Program are highlighted.
“We all loved learning how to use all of these recipes during CAFF’s Culinary Scratch Cooking trainings,” said Jennifer Sanez, food service staff member at El Roble Elementary School in the Gilroy Unified School District. “We are always excited to use one of the recipes with our local Harvest of the Month items.
“I talk to the kids in the lunch line about who grew the food and how I made something healthy for them. The students are healthier because they are eating fresh, whole foods made from scratch.”
The goal of the Farm to School movement is to connect schools to local farms, increasing student access to healthy foods, supporting family farmers and growing our local economies.
The Community Alliance with Family Farmers is a nonprofit that works to advocate for California family farmers and sustainable agriculture. CAFF has been running Farm to School programs since 2001 and works in partnership with 20 school districts around the state in developing, implementing and evaluating Farm to School programs.
The Harvest of the Month guide is available at http://caff.org/programs/farm-2-school/resources. For more information about CAFF or to receive a hard copy of the guide, email firstname.lastname@example.org.