Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry
Today’s Cafeteria Stories contribution comes from Dr. Robert Lewis of the El Monte School District in Southern California. Dr. Lewis describes the success that his urban school district has had with school gardening, and how gardening helps to transform the food culture among students who were previously unaware of the origins of food. His district is making great strides in improving the school nutrition environment, thanks in part to support from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
By: Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District
The majority of the more than 1,000 students that attend Durfee School—part of El Monte School District, east of Los Angeles, California—have lived their entire lives in urban neighborhoods without access to farms or fields. It’s ironic that our school is named after James R. Durfee, a rancher and farmer who grew vegetables, grain, walnuts, and fruit. But until several years ago, Durfee students didn’t know where food came from, aside from the supermarket or the corner store.
When we joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program and decided to improve the healthfulness of the food we serve to our students, we started by getting our hands dirty. As the director of nutrition services for El Monte School District I knew that kids are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the process and learn why it is important. I invited local farmers to school to plant seedlings with the students. Once kids saw how broccoli or red cabbage grows, you can bet they wanted to taste them both in the garden and in the cafeteria. Read more »
Sharon Foster of James Bowie Elementary School in Dallas is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Ellen Yale
Today’s guest post in our Cafeteria Stories series comes from Sharon Foster, a physical education teacher dedicated to paving a path of success for her students. Ms. Foster describes the importance of a healthy school nutrition environment, as well as involving students in the change process (something I wholeheartedly support!). Due to her motivation and successes, Ms. Foster now serves as an ambassador for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
By Sharon Foster, Physical Education Teacher at James Bowie Elementary School
As students at James Bowie Elementary School head back to school this fall, I feel good about the fact we are providing healthy meals, drinks, and snacks at school because I know we’re helping our students build strong minds and bodies.
It wasn’t always that way at our school. Before we started our journey by joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, our students were snacking on salty foods and sugary drinks outside the cafeteria and were not ready to learn when they came to class. Read more »
Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA. Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.
Making organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable involves collaboration with many partners across the country and around the globe. To advance this work, USDA supports a diverse community of organic stakeholders.
Nonprofits, businesses, universities, state governments and other organizations lead a range of technical assistance, training, outreach and certification programs for organic farms and businesses. These organizations provide the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with valuable feedback about how to keep organic certification sound and sensible and how to meet the needs of new and transitioning organic farmers. To support their work, USDA is awarding project contracts to 13 organizations that will advance the NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process. Read more »
Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."
“How many of you like vegetables?” The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses. But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight. A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit. A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite. The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.
Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables. Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce. The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »
Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.
Children who live in the Franklin Vista Apartments in Anthony, N.M., didn’t have to walk far to receive a healthy breakfast and lunch this summer, thanks to Gadsden ISD Food Service Director Demetrious Giovas. He made sure children there were able to gather under the covered porch of the apartment community center for a nutritious meal. The school district set up tables each day to ensure the kids had access to healthy food while school was out of session.
For the first time, Gadsden ISD provided daily breakfasts and lunches to children at apartments through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. Food was prepared at the local elementary school, where it was distributed to 14 sites including Franklin Vista Apartments, as well as churches, other community-based facilities and schools. Throughout the summer, sites sponsored by the school district provided an average of 2,000 lunches and 1,900 breakfasts each weekday. Read more »
Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.
They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.
The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring. Read more »