Pittsburg, California: Bringing the Farm into Summer

Written by: Matthew Belasco, Director of Child Nutrition Services with Pittsburg Unified School District

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PUSD Food Services Department sold fresh affordable produce from the district’s school gardens.

Here in Pittsburg, fresh, healthy, California-sourced meals don’t stop for the summer. All summer long, Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD) provides free summer meals to children and teens.

By providing free meals at local parks, libraries, schools, community centers, and churches, PUSD ensures that students who rely on school lunch during the school year have access to nutritious meals for the summer. The program is part of USDA’s Seamless Summer Meals program, which provides free meals to children ages 0-18 when school’s out for the summer.This summer, Pittsburg Unified started its summer meal program off with a bang. The kick-off event, held at Buchannan Park, was more than just a delicious BBQ – it was a celebration. The Pittsburg High School marching band and cheerleaders gave performances, including answering First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Give me Five” challenge with a dance. The entire community showed up – representatives from the Contra Costa Food Bank came with bags of produce to give away, the STS Academy brought a butterfly booth for the kids, and the students at Pittsburg High School brought some of their latest garden harvest to show-off to the crowds.

Dr. Katie Wilson, USDA Deputy Undersecretary, spoke at the Summer Meals Kick Off earlier this summer.

Dr. Katie Wilson, USDA Deputy Undersecretary, speaks at the Summer Meals Kick Off earlier this summer.

Also in attendance were USDA representatives (including Deputy Undersecretary Dr. Katie Wilson, and representatives from the California Departments of Education and Food and Agriculture), and many other community organizations (including Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Center for Ecoliteracy, Contra Costa Health Services, and UC Cooperative Extension).

There were games and plenty of things for kids and families to do, and, of course, plenty of delicious food. Thanks to a grant from Kaiser Permanente, parents could eat for free with their kids. And the food was delicious – hamburgers, hotdogs, chips with guacamole and salsa, roasted corn on the cob, stone fruit, and milk.

Tomorrow, July 23rd, Pittsburg will be hosting another big summer meals event. This time, children and their families will gather at the Pittsburg library for an afternoon of healthy food and good fun. PUSD will be heating up the grill for another BBQ – this time featuring antibiotic-free chicken from Mary’s Chickens, a local producer in Sanger, CA. Also on the menu is corn from Maggiore Farms in Brentwood, stone fruit from La Rosa and Sons, and California Fried Rice, in celebration of California Thursdays.

Not only will there be delicious, California grown food, but families will also get to enjoy a visit from the First Generation Farmers (along with some of their goats and a worm bin), the Pittsburg Police Department and their canine unit, the Contra Costa Food Bank, which will be distributing free bags of produce, and La Clinica will be there giving out free dental referrals. It’s sure to be another great event!

1b0a873About the Author: Matthew Belasco is currently the Director of Child Nutrition Services with Pittsburg Unified School District in East Contra Costa County. Since his involvement with PUSD, Matthew has helped bring on California Thursdays through partnership with the Center for Ecoliteracy and strengthen support to school gardens district-wide.

 


Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.32.17 AMPittsburg Unified School District’s Child Nutrition Services Department
 is made up of a team of food and nutrition professionals that are dedicated to students’ health, well being and their ability to learn. The Pittsburg Unified School District’s Wellness Plan supports learning by promoting healthy habits for lifelong nutrition and fitness. To learn more about PUSD, please visit their website.

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