The North Valley Region of the California Farm to School Network is comprised mainly of small, rural school districts. Our regional gathering has been focusing on creating community between the nutrition services teams from these districts via a day of connection, education, and celebration of their work. Last year we had teams from four districts demonstrate scratch cooking recipes, and then we all sat down and shared them for lunch.
Building on the momentum from last year, for the gathering this summer we were able to bring in a guest speaker and Farm to School Champion, Sandy Curwood, Director of Child Nutrition Services at Conejo Valley School District, who provided a full day workshop focused on the move to scratch cooking and local procurement. Not only is Sandy the perfect person to bring current best practices for farm to school to fellow food service professionals, the workshop that she presented was approved by the California Department of Education (CDE) to satisfy the new professional development standards that went into effect July 2015! So this free workshop satisfied the new standard requirement for many of those who attended.
The August workshop, which attracted more than three dozen school nutrition professionals from Colusa Unified School District, Orland Unified School District, Corning Elementary School District and Williams Unified School District, was hosted by Leasa Hill, Nutrition Services Director at Colusa Unified School District, in partnership with the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) at CSU Chico.
Leasa Hill, Colusa’s Nutrition Services’ Director, had her staff prepare one of Sandy’s recipes for lunch for the gathering. Leasa felt it was important to demonstrate how school districts can lean on each other and share best practices. Sandy echoed that sentiment in her presentation, reminding schools to template and share good ideas. She pointed out that what makes school food service unique from restaurants is that schools are not in competition with each other. Schools are all working for the same goal, and they can help one another.
The CHC Farm Stand pilot project set up in the back of the room, and gave away fresh produce as prizes during the day. All participants were given “Farm Bucks” to redeem as take home goodies. We also had CalFresh information available, and more prizes were donated by the Buy Fresh Buy Local North Valley team and the North Valley Food Hub. CHC also provided tastings from local growers and local grower crop information and contact lists.
The gathering was another step in developing relationships between schools, and connecting them with support for both improving the work they do and assistance for local procurement.
A local news reporter covered the event, and also some of CHC’s outreach programs to Colusa, and put together some great news stories that aired on our local NPR station. Follow these links to see more photos and hear the stories:
Colusa City Schools Have Kids Eating Their Fruits And Veggies
North Valley Food Service Gets A Healthy, Tasty Start To The New Year
About the Author: Sheila McQuaid is the Farm to Fork Coordinator at the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) and the current Regional Lead for the North Valley Region of the California Farm to School Network. Sheila coordinates the purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables for the programs at CHC, as well as the Farmer of the Month educational newsletter and videos.
The Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) is a leader in nutrition education. food security and physical activity programs and policies addressing the needs of diverse populations locally, regionally, and internally. CHC provides the infrastructure and coordination of shared resources for interdisciplinary student-faculty-staff research and opportunities for civic engagement and service learning in our communities. To learn more about CHC, please visit their website.