“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.”