Written by: Colin Cureton, Director at CHIP Food Systems
On a rare rainy day in early May, over 50 farm-to-school partners in San Diego County found their way to a Chula Vista Elementary School District production kitchen just 5 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border for the most recent convening of the San Diego County Farm to School Taskforce and this year’s CFSN Regional Gathering. In contrast to the old adage, having too many cooks in this kitchen turned out to be a wonderful thing!As the last Farm to School Taskforce meeting of the 2015-2016 school year, this gathering was packed with presentations. Prior to the meeting, we held a convening of the San Diego County California Thursdays Collective Impact Network to check-in on all the fantastic progress our dozen California Thursdays districts are making throughout San Diego County. We then transitioned to the Regional Gathering, dedicating our first hour to regional food waste reduction efforts, which is a timely issue in given the implementation of AB1826. A highlight was hearing from Gloria Quinn, who leads an incredibly inspiring food waste reduction project at Ramona Unified School District. Over the past two years, Ramona has donated 7,280 lbs. of unserved food to those in need, fed animals 3,840 lbs. of leftover food, and composted 6,576 lbs. of food in the district’s new 600-gallon Earth Tub compost unit. How cool is that!?
To bring a broader regional lens to the gathering, attendees heard a presentation of results from the Orange County Food Access Coalition’s (OCFAC) first ever State of Farm to School in Orange County report. In their first ever county-wide survey, OCFAC got a 100% response rate and found that every school district is engaged in at least one farm-to-school activity. Way to go OCFAC, and way to go Orange County school districts!
As we zipped from one presentation to another, we covered everything from hands-on chef trainings for San Diego County school districts hosted by Kitchens for Good/Alchemy in 2015 to a new program CHIP (which facilitates the San Diego County Farm to School Taskforce) will be launching in 2016-2017 called the Good Food Rebate Program. The program will rebate participating school districts 20% of their local, sustainable, and fairly-produced food purchases up to $10,000 in rebates, allowing the district to shift up to $50,000 of purchasing. Finally, of course we announced CFSN’s exciting Gold Seed Awards and encouraged our region’s districts to apply.
It’s been a fantastic year of farm-to-school in San Diego County and this gathering was the perfect way to finish it off: packed into a school district kitchen, pushing the work forward. Thanks to everyone who helped advance farm-to-school in the region in 2015-2016, and we look forward to another great year of farm-to-school next year!
About the Author: Colin Cureton is the Food Systems Director of San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, which is facilitated by the Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP).
San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative fulfills its mission, the Initiative creates, supports, and mobilizes partners from multiple domains (i.e., sectors); provides leadership and vision; provides education and advocacy; and coordinates and sustains county-wide efforts in the prevention and reduction of childhood obesity. To learn more about San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, please visit their website.