It’s not always easy for school districts to secure and serve the most fresh and healthy food in school meals. The process is often hindered by outdated policy and systems practices that prevent students from receiving the best healthy food.
That is changing in San Diego, where the San Diego Unified School District has emerged as a nationwide leader in innovative programs connecting San Diego County farmers and their healthy food to local schools.
Many of these programs are in collaboration with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). Through HHSA’s Healthy Works initiative, a program of Live Well San Diego, the district and HHSA have partnered on numerous policy and systems changes that provide easier access to healthy local food.
Examples are the district’s robust Farm to School program that has served as a model for other school districts in recent years, while its Breakfast in the Classroom program increased attendance, and continues to help students begin their day with a healthy meal, vital to better learning.
A new strategy between the district and HHSA under Healthy Works will further connect schools to healthy, locally grown food. The strategy involves innovative contract procurement language that enables the district to engage in an “informal bid” process when contracting with outside providers, often third-party distributors.
This process allows for smaller amounts of specific local foods to be purchased and incorporated into the district’s food system, and served to students in school meals.