Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Locally grown fruits, vegetables on lunch trays hits a million pounds

 A million pounds of local, regional and organic food has been served to San Diego Unified students during the past three years.

Since 2010, the one million pounds has included apples from Julian, certified organic blackberries and other healthy fruits and vegetables grown in San Diego and California, brought fresh to Kids' Choice Cafés in elementary schools and SanDi Coast Cafés at middle and high schools.

Fresh fruits and vegetables "What this means is that our kids are eating the freshest and best food we can give them," said Gary Petill, Food Services Director. "There's nothing better in the world than what our partners, the farmers of California, grow in the local sunshine."

Over the three years, the amount of locally grown items on your school's lunch menu has gone from less than two percent to more than 15 percent. The program began in 2010 when the District participated in a federal grant allocated to the County of San Diego. The grant is gone but the fresh choices remain.
"We try for a very diverse menu on our salad bar," said Petill. "Many of our customers eat in our restaurants every day of the week -- some twice a day. We have to keep them happy and the local produce helps us do that."
This school year, nearly 600,000 pounds -- nearly $250,000 worth -- of produce has been purchased from local farms, including some that are in the city of San Diego, said Vanessa Zajfen, the District's Farm to School Specialist. Menu items this year included Organic Kabocha Squash from Suzie's Farm in South Bay, Organic Persimmons grown by Sahu Sub-Tropicals in Fallbrook and Rainbow; and tofu from the San Diego Soy Dairy.

The farm-to-school program builds on a tradition of healthy and tasty lunches at the District. This is the tenth school year that San Diego Unified has had salad bars in elementary schools; the seniors that will graduate from high school in a next week have grown up with salad bars in their schools. These students have learned to make positive, healthy choices by having salad bars in their schools. Every day, they can choose a variety of fruits and vegetables – load up on one or another today, change up with something else tomorrow. But it's all healthy, said Petill.

This isn't costing taxpayers any extra; it's all done within the amount provided by the federal government's school lunch subsidy and what students pay for lunch: $2 elementary, $2.50 middle and high school. And 61 percent of the district's students are low income and receive free or reduced-priced lunches.

For more information on the district's Food Services Program, contact Petill at gpetill@sandi.net. There's also more information on the Farm To School website.