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Change Beyond the Plate

Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoying a nutritious and delicious school lunch

Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoys a nutritious and delicious school lunch. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Public Schools

The following guest blog from a school and community nutrition services director in Louisville, Kentucky highlights how non-profit School Food FOCUS relies on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) to help increase transparency and choice for school food purchases.  USDA’s objective, third-party auditing services focus on increasing transparency from farm to market by offering verification based on clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.

By Julia Bauscher, Director of School and Community Nutrition Services, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky

The first time School Food FOCUS brought together a group of school food directors like myself to talk about how we could improve the quality of chicken—the number one protein we serve to students—I was thrilled and a little daunted.

Schools across the country spend nearly $1 billion on chicken every year. That’s a lot of buying power. School Food FOCUS challenged us to think about the changes we can make to our food system if districts leveraged this buying power to create a demand for chicken that is better on the plate and for the environment.

We dared to think what might happen if we created a standard that would promote responsible antibiotic use in poultry production and increase affordable chicken options for school food directors like myself. In collaboration with USDA, we developed a comprehensive audit program and chose the Process Verified Program (PVP) for all third-party verification. This ensures that products carrying the label are meeting the School Food FOCUS Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) standard.

CRAU is the first standard verified by USDA to ensure that use of medically important antibiotics in raising chicken is rare, well-documented and only with a licensed veterinarian’s prescription.  It also means that the poultry producer goes through the USDA PVP audit process annually which includes onsite visits from USDA auditors to ensure conformance.

The beauty of USDA’s PVP auditing is that anyone—including school districts—has direct access to the protocols and audit systems the poultry producer maintains in order to be CRAU certified. This level of accountability and transparency is unparalleled in the school food market.

Thanks to CRAU and USDA’s PVP, school food directors across the country are serving quality protein to our children and at the same time improving the way poultry is produced in our country. Now that’s making change beyond the plate.

Learn more about CRAU at www.schoolfoodfocus.org.

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