Kale Salad for Lunch at School? Coming Right Up! RCSD Students Enjoy California Grown Fresh Produce for Every Meal
Crunchy kale, polished persimmons, quartered kiwis…new tastes and bright colors adorn the Redwood City School District (RCSD) cafeterias each month with much of the produce coming from farms within 400 miles.
Fresh, local produce has been available in RCSD schools for many years and has advantages that reach far beyond a well-rounded school meal, said Anna Lague, RCSD’s registered dietitian nutritionist.
“By providing a variety of fruit and vegetable choices, the hope is that students will recognize the item that they taste tested, then when they see it served in the cafeteria they will select it and eat it,” Lague said, adding that students may also be more apt to wanting to eat those healthier options at home, as well.
The RCSD Child Nutrition Services’ Harvest of the Month program is a fun, engaging way to encourage students to try new things at school.
“A taste testing station is set up outside the cafeteria serving line and students are encouraged to taste the featured item and then they are asked to vote on whether or not they liked the item,” she said. Students vote by way of adding stickers to charts so that staff know what is well-received.
In December, students had the opportunity to try fresh-made kale salads.
“During the winter months, leafy greens like romaine and spring mix are not available locally but kale is,” Lague said. “If we can get our students to enjoy eating kale then we can continue to purchase local food during the winter and be satisfied in knowing our students are benefiting nutritionally by consuming dark green vegetables.”
Many of these items are procured through the Farm 2 School initiatives. CNS works with vendor Daylight Foods to procure fresh, local produce from socially disadvantaged farmers. Local farms are within 400 miles.
“The Harvest of the Month program helps local farmers financially since the featured fruit or vegetable is procured directly from them and delivered to RCSD by our produce vendors,” Lague said. “This helps the local economy.”
Other items come from Propacific, the vendor for the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Order Receipt Program, she added. Exceptions to the local or U.S. grown initiatives include jicama and bananas, which are student favorites that are not grown in large quantities.
Each day, CNS is required to offer a 1 cup serving of fruit or vegetable at breakfast. At lunch, 1/2 cup serving of fruit is required, plus 3/4 cup serving of vegetables. At breakfast and lunch, students may select as many different fruits and vegetables as they like, ensuring exposure to a variety of vitamins and nutrients.