Thursday, April 16, 2015

San Diego Unified showcases Farm to School Program for national audience

As part of a national food services conference, more than 60 school district representatives, members of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and members of National Food Service Management Institute took a trip to Crawford High School to observe San Diego Unified’s Farm to School program in action.

Attendees were welcomed by Gary Petill, the director of San Diego Unified’s Food Services department.

“We all know about the challenges of the stigma associated with school food over the years,” said Petill. The meals served at schools across the district do not look like the typical school lunches of the past. They are colorful, with vibrant hues revealing the focus on serving fresh fruits and vegetables.”

As part of their trip, attendees had the opportunity to tour Crawford High’s garden and kitchen facilities.

Crawford High has implemented a Garden to Café program, allowing fresh produce to be grown and harvested on site and served in the cafeteria. Members of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) run internships at Crawford High for students to work in the garden, gaining job experience and learning about nutrition.

 Crawford Garden to Cafe students
 Pictured: Jomar, Susan, Shafie, Pawlay and Irene

This afterschool garden club allows for students like Susan, Irene, Pawlay, Jomar and Shafie to participate in a social activity while growing various crops such as lettuce, spinach, radishes or kale.

“It’s interesting because when I came here, it had been three months that I’d been in the United States,” said Jomar, a junior. “I wanted to compare gardening here to in the Philippines.”

Crawford High has a prep kitchen that services the surrounding school campuses in addition to its main campus. While touring the kitchen, attendees were able to meet some of the San Diego farmers who sell organic crops to San Diego Unified.

Some of the more surprising foods served to students include kabocha squash, cremini mushrooms, jicama and kumquats. George Edwards, an attendee from New York City’s Department of Education, explained that even though these foods may be unusual to serve to elementary school students, children can easily learn to like them.

“Yes, kids are picky.” said Edwards. “Adults are picky. Sometimes it’s easier to convince a child to try something new as opposed to an adult. Usually it takes one child, and the rest seem to follow.”

To conclude their trip to Crawford High, the attendees were served a California Thursdays lunch. This meal, presented by the Center for Ecoliteracy in collaboration with San Diego Unified, features California-grown food and includes a Mary’s Chicken drumstick.

The Major Cities Training Symposium by NFSMI was an opportunity for individuals from food services departments in school districts across the nation to exchange ideas and information. Crawford High and San Diego Unified served as an example of a successful and innovative Farm to School program.