Schools increase focus on fresh produce - The Packer

Schools increase focus on fresh produce

08/30/2012 03:49:00 PM
Tom Karst

The district does not have salad bars, but offers pre-made salads to its students.

Lawrence said fresh produce purchases have been up substantially in the first month but some leveling off is expected as schools adjust. For example, determining how many nectarines a school of 600 students may need is hard predict.

“Do you need 300 nectarines or 500?” she said.

Lawrence said the district works with Royal Food Service in Atlanta to adjust supply to needs. The new standards call for weekly minimums of red/orange vegetables. In the case of bell peppers, the pepper strips must be only red or orange, and not yellow or green.

“Orange peppers have been almost impossible to get in the quantities we need so we are doing red peppers or otherwise it doesn’t meet that category,” she said.

Another recent issue is that smaller oranges have been in tight supply, so Lawrence has recently consulted with Royal Food Service and decided to stay away from oranges for a bit until the availability of smaller sizes expands.

“Produce changes with all kinds of variables so you have to be willing to adjust to that,” she said.

Another issue for school foodservice staff is knowing the optimum time to serve produce.

“If something comes in on Tuesday that is right and ready to serve, you might have to serve that on Wednesday even if it is not on the menu until Friday,” she said. The district wants to present the best possible eating experience for students that may have never had a particular fruit or vegetable before.

In the same way, if nectarines are as hard as a brick, schools don’t want to serve them too soon, she said.

“It is getting our staff trained to know when things are at their peak,” she said.

Lawrence said four of the district schools have the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the district also does farm to school procurement, with its vendor. Royal Food Service provides a description of the local farms that can be distributed to schools.

In a press conference Aug. 29, Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said the new standards will combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s children.

Phil Muir, president of Muir Copper Canyon Farms, Salt Lake City, said the School Nutrition Association annual convention in July revealed that while many school foodservice directors were ready for the change, others were in “near panic” stage to figure out the right amount of fruits and vegetables to serve.

Muir said Copper Canyon advised school foodservice directors in meetings during the summer, helping them to plan menus.

“Schools have to be creative and think outside the box and suppliers have to think outside the box to get the job done,” he said. “If you treat schools like any other customers, you won’t be successful.”

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produce guy    
usa  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:26 AM

Because of the program my child and the teaching staff cannot have cheese on their hamburgers! "To much protein says Mrs. Obama"! Produce is great for our kids but you cant take away items because of the calorie and protein counts! Mine comes home hungry!

Washington State  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:49 AM

It's much more likely the concern is fat, not protein. Cheese & hamburger is a double fat whammy for the arteries, not to mention the fanny.

suzanne jones    
Iowa  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:46 AM

I work in a high school in Altoona Iowa. I thought maybe the children would not care for the new regulations and we have issues. But much to my surprise it hasn't been an issue. We go through lettuce like crazy every day. And six forty pound boxes of bananas last only 2 days. We have cut the fat a little. We offer low fat cheese but took away

Leesburg GA  |  August, 31, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Overall this has been a positive change. Most of our high school students are loading up their trays with fruits and vegetables. The biggest complaint is from the football players who are hungry after getting 2 ounces of protein. Students are upset about not getting macaroni and cheese or cheese grits because the cheese is counted as a protein and it would take away from the already small portion of meat.

Damian Solomon    
California  |  August, 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Fresh fruits and veggies are much more nutrient dense than most processed foods in our schools today. Which means that fruits/veggies will make the kids feel "fuller" longer than eating a hamburger with cheese. There should be no complaints of kids being hungry after 2 hours of eating lunch. This country is experiencing an obesity pandemic, and its attributed to over eating of processed food that offers ZERO nutrion. Do you really think that one slice of a processed cheese product (that is not even really cheese at all) is making our kids healthy and feel satisfied?

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