Madison Farm to School Update and Our Lunch Ladies

I’m just not my usual crabby, self-righteous self today.  Here’s why:

I met with Camelview Nutritional Director Patty Hunn today for the first time.  I was impressed with her knowledge, but her dedication to our students quickly won my respect.  She is a positive, organized and experienced manager.  She put me at ease right away and made me feel energized and enthusiastic about this project.  I expected to hear at least a few reasons why this farm to school idea wouldn’t work.  But no–just all the things we could do to get started.  So it’s full speed ahead.

As Patty is on the executive board of the School Nutrition Association of Arizona (SNAAZ), she is going to ask about other schools doing the Farm to School Program at this month’s meeting.  She reminded me that we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

She co-wrote and won a USDA grant a few years ago to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for student snacks.  In addition to improving student wellness, the program had meaningful educational impact.  For example, teachers designed lessons to help students learn about new kinds of produce they’d never eaten before.  With her experience and her knowledge of USDA regulations and procedures at my disposal, I’m confident I’ll be able to write the Farm to School Grant.

Our School Wellness Committee, which includes parents, students and teachers, will meet soon.  This should be a great avenue for spreading the word and getting the Camelview community involved.  I am especially eager to meet the group of 4th graders who, under Patty’s direction, will be attending meetings, setting wellness goals for the student body, and helping to educate others about health and nutrition.  I really like how she gives the students ownership of their health goals and encourages them to invest in their community’s health.  My oldest son even expressed interest in joining next year–Patty said he could observe a few meetings.

A few more random thoughts:

Regarding yesterday’s post, I’m still not clear on why students get to choose a Smucker’s Uncrustables (or even a hamburger) when somebody worked really hard planning balanced lunch menus.  I’m kicking myself for not asking Patty.  Consider the following menu:

Bean Burrito or Hummus, Veggies & Cheese, Diced Tomatoes, Baby Carrots, Fresh & Canned Fruit

If you swapped the canned fruit for fresh (something taxpayers and parents should be willing to pay for), this would be a great lunch.  Why do kids get a choice?  They simply shouldn’t.

I also want to say that no matter how much I rail against the USDA or the Arizona Department of Education, I love our lunch ladies.  I appreciate all the staff at Camelview and Heights–they are amazing, caring, hard working people.  But lunch ladies rule.  The nutrition director and cafeteria staff are often under appreciated–we have to remember that the school couldn’t function without them.  I won’t stop complaining about the details of the federal lunch program that I find objectionable, but I want to be clear that this in no way reflects my opinions about our district’s nutrition directors and staff.  There.

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