#SchoolLunch is GREAT in GREELEY

Blog 0 Shayla

First grader Shayla chooses flavorings for her egg pop. 

There are three great reasons to share my recent visit to Greeley-Evans School District 6 in Colorado. First, there has been lots of recent attention to school lunch acceptability and food waste related USDA school meals nutritional standards. Secondly, it is School Nutrition Employee Wellness Week culminating on May 5, with School Lunch Hero Day. And, finally, farm to school remains one of the hottest trends in school meals.

Blog2 Salad Bar

Greeley Central High School salad bar is well-loved. 

Greeley-Evans School District 6 Nutrition Services is dedicated to getting delicious school food into hungry kids. In a district with 22,000 students (67 percent eligible for free or reduced meals) located in a population-boom town (4th fastest growth in the US), everything starts in a 12,000 square foot central production facility where nearly 100 percent of the district’s meals are prepared from scratch and sent out in bulk to schools. On my tour with district Chef Matthew Poling, I saw pallets of local Colorado red-skinned potatoes, boxes of frozen local, grass-fed beef, and 50-gallons drums of canned tomatoes direct from a California farm – as well as a commercial-sized chili roaster and a walk-in cooler of fresh produce. Why then do I have a photo of a messy salad bar with half empty containers? Because the high school students took – and ate – the produce. When I arrived at Greeley Central High School, it was standing room only on the Tierra Del Sol line. They actually they ran out of the burrito that I wanted for lunch (I did not go hungry; I enjoyed a Fuego Cheese Steak from the famous El Fuego Food Truck).

Blog 3 Super Hero

Greeley-Evans School District 6 celebrates all their school lunch heroes. 

Before I ever entered a school, Director Danielle Bock gave me my very own School Lunch Hero Day button (distributed to every team member this week). During our tour, Danielle and I started with egg pop tasting in Chappelow K-8 Magnet School’s cafeteria at 7:30 AM and ended at a student-run coffee kiosk in Greeley West High School at 2:30 PM. During the intervening hours, I met dozens of school nutrition heroes – serving pancakes with mixed berry compote, explaining their Dance Party kits from the award-winning Student Wellness Program, scrubbing potatoes in the central kitchen, customizing sub sandwiches for teens, working the El Fuego Food Truck (and preparing my lunch), and sampling coffee with teen entrepreneurs at their student-run business.

Blog 4 Egg Pop

Director Danielle Bock helps Chappelow students choose flavorings for their egg pops. 

Greeley-Evans School District 6 is also a National Farm to School Network super-star – nearly 25 percent of their food purchases are local, with the rate increasing each year. The Greeley-Evans School District 6 Farm to School goals are ambitious and obviously achievable!

  • Continuously expanding local produce offerings during breakfast, lunch and in Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program sites
  • Sourcing milk from local dairies
  • Integrating locally-raised beef and chicken into meals
  • Expanding and improving school garden programs
  • Increasing Farmer in the Classroom and Chef in the Classroom programming
  • Partnering with other Northern Colorado school districts to develop efficient and effective systems, like the USDA-funded District 6 Food Hub, to work with local producers

My day at Greeley-Evans School District 6 Nutrition Services was filled with enthusiastic school nutrition heroes, satisfied student customers, fresh food served with a smile, and support for the new frontiers of school food: think egg pops, food trucks, house-made hot sauce and coffee kiosks for teen entrepreneurs. I salute every staff member – and hope I can go back for lunch soon!

Blog F2S 4

For details about these farms and links to their social media, go to goo.gl/ZUrbNR

Georgia on My Mind: #GoldenRadish, #LeafItToSpinach, #HealthiestSchools, and #HarvestBright

I’ve been waiting for the right inspiration to kickstart my blog again. I got it on Monday at the 2016 #GoldenRadish ceremony in the Georgia State Capitol. I was beyond honored to speak briefly about the 53 districts, representing over 39 million school meals featuring both regional and local Georgia Grown products, 8246 farm to school taste tests, 575 school gardens and so much more. The number of #GoldenRadish awards have expanded dramatically since the original 30 in 2014. The #GoldenRadish committee keeps adding new categories – Outstanding District award in 2015 and a planned 2017 Platinum award – challenging districts to grow better and better farm to school programs.leafittospinach

At Statham Elementary School, a site in the Gold Level #GoldenRadish Barrow County School Nutrition District, Diana Cole and her special needs students have explored #LeafItToSpinach as part of their October #FarmToSchool Month lessons. As I entered the classroom Tuesday, they were reading Sylvia’s Spinach before tasting Spinach Lasagna, enjoying the Spinach Brownies they had made themselves, and going out to check on their newly planted spinach seeds in the school garden. 2016-10-25-sylvias-spinachAfter the garden we all enjoyed Georgia Grown Spinach Salad (and carrots too) for school lunch. While award ceremonies feature state officials and fancy plaques, the real work of changing how Georgia’s children eat is moving forward with #onesmallstep at a time in classrooms like Diana’s Cole’s every school day.2016-10-25-statham-lunch

I’ve been following Bibb County Schools – aka Eat Right, Be Bright – for years. Director Cleta Long does an outstanding job and folks know it: SIXTEEN Bibb County Schools were recognized this year among America’s #HealthiestSchools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Cleta and her staff take their Gold Level #GoldenRadish status seriously with boxes and boxes of local produce served all year round in deliciously appealing ways.apple-collageBibb County’s healthy ways extend beyond the cafeteria to Georgia Grown parades for #FeedMySchool week in hallways, nutrition education in classrooms, science-lessons in school gardens, and real field trips to local farms. In addition to 16 #HealthiestSchools awards, Bibb County was recognized with two Georgia School Nutrition Association #BestPractice awards and ten Let’s Move Active Schools.

#HarvestBright is the new tagline for Burke County Public Schools Farm to School Program, the Outstanding District honored at Georgia Organics 2016 #GoldenRadish ceremony. Director Donna Martin, President-Elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, was recently described as the “Ultimate Lunch Lady.” Donna actively promotes the benefits of #FarmToSchool and #SchoolMealsThatRock from the fields of Burke County to the White House Garden. donnaDonna travels the world to promote Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and the Academy, but she is still happiest eating lunch with Burke County Public School students, out standing in collard fields with organic farmer Sam Adderson, or planning new ways to get even more local products, like grits, onto school lunch trays and farmers market shopping bags.

group-photoBarrow, Bibb and Burke counties were just three of the award-winning districts celebrated on the steps of Georgia Capitol on October 24, 2016. There are 50 more districts with dedicated directors from the Atlantic coast to the mountains of north Georgia. How has Georgia Organics been able to successfully grow the #GoldenRadish Awards for all these Georgia districts doing such extraordinary work in farm to school? It’s really pretty simple: Georgia Organics coordinates the #GoldenRadish Awards with the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Agriculture, and Georgia Department of Public Health, a powerful team to make the dream of local food for local kids work. It’s really no wonder that, according to USDA’s 2015 Farm to School Census, 62 percent of Georgia districts participate in farm to school programs – well above the 42 percent of districts nationwide. For more about all the current award winners and next year’s applications, please visit the Georgia Organics website at https://georgiaorganics.org/for-schools/goldenradish and blog at https://georgiaorganics.org/2016/10/53-georgia-school-districts-honored-farm-school-success/