Harvest of the Month: RCSD Program Introduces Fresh Produce to Students While Supporting Local Farmers
Glossy, reddish-orange, oblong, and smooth–unfamiliar fruit arrives at the cafeteria counter for students sometimes. They might guess it’s a strange tomato or a misshapen apple, but the fall-harvested persimmon is in the berry family. With a hint of honey flavor and a soft texture, the persimmon is a very unique fruit.
Some Redwood City School District (RCSD) students may be trying persimmons, kiwi, and other California-grown fruits and vegetables for their first time as part of the Child Nutrition Services Harvest of the Month (CNS) initiative. Harvest of the Month focuses on introducing students to wholesome foods, highlighting what’s in season and where it grows.
“It’s often items that the students really like and it’s very seasonal,” said Anna Lague, CNS Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. “We aim to make sure it’s procured locally.”
RCSD CNS has developed partnerships with local producers and vendors to deliver fresh and nutritious produce to the students, as well as educational components with help in part by the UC Cooperative Extension. Displays for Harvest of the Month inform students about where their food is grown by featuring farms and regions.
“We are so fortunate in California that we grow a lot of the country’s vegetables and fruit,” Lague said, adding that there are a few healthy favorites grown elsewhere, such as jicama, but the effort is made to keep it local. “We work with our vendors to procure from small farms whenever possible for the better of the economy and the planet.”
Harvest of the Month also educates students about Nutrition Facts such as what vitamins are most prevalent in a certain fruit or vegetable and how that supports their health. For example, students will learn that persimmons are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants.
Students “eat a rainbow” throughout the week, meaning produce of every color and category like leafy greens, legumes, root veggies, and more are served. There is nearly always something in season in California that is sure to bring smiles to the cafeteria, from Watsonville’s juicy strawberries to Gridley’s refreshingly tart kiwis and Tulare’s sticky, sweet oranges.