Farm to School programs are changing the way kids learn about, eat and experience food. Simply going through the lunch line is no longer enough. Schools want kids to have hands-on experiences with fresh fruits and vegetables to get them more interested in food that is good for them. Going back to basics allows kids to see where their food is coming from and learn more about the process it takes to get to their plates.
“One reason Farm to School programs have been started is that students, if they know who grew it or how it was grown, they are more likely to try the food,” said Kelli Brew, Farm to School Coordinator for Alachua County Public Schools.
Many kids have never been exposed to food grown locally in their state. Apples and bananas are common in households, but those fruits don’t grow well in Florida. Alachua County schools were given the opportunity to introduce new fruits, like Asian pears and persimmons, to kids because they grow perfectly in Florida’s climate.
Every month, kids are introduced to a new food item that has been harvested nearby. They can expand their palate and learn more about where it has been grown. After kids try a new food, they receive a trading card with the food and the farmer who grew it.
“The kids really like that,” said Brew.
The Alachua County Farm to School program is comprised of 13 school gardens, one acre of growing at their hub and 10 to 15 local farms in Florida that sell to the schools. Organizers look first in their county and then at adjacent counties when buying from farms.
One challenge associated with Farm to School programs is added labor. Produce arrives at the hub in bulk and then organizers still need to clean it and prepare it at the schools. Cambro products help keep food fresh and safe during and after preparation.
“We specifically asked for Cambro products to keep the lettuce fresh after it was washed. The ones with the drain shelves allow for air circulation and extra drainage,” said Brew. “We understood they last a long time and could be used for years.”
The drain shelves Brew describes are Camwear drain shelves. The shelf is easily placed at the bottom of existing Camwear food pans to keep products away from drained liquids. Another great option is the Cambro Colander pan, which is an elevated, slotted pan that fits into a food pan.
Last school year, the Farm to School Hub received 25,000 pounds of produce from local farms, making it imperative for Brew to have pans that withstand constant use. Serving 28,000 students locally grown food every week as part of the school lunch program is no easy feat.
Currently, groups of students get to see the Farm to School Hub every Friday, but Brew says they are also working with a nearby farm to give kids the opportunity to see the farming process up close.
Learn about more Cambro products that can support your Farm to School program by contacting your Cambro rep.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.