Dane Petersen, Program Assistant - Farm to Institution Center, Community Health Improvement Partners
To provide students with the freshest food possible, in 2015, Vista Unified School District developed a multi-faceted program to bring local farm fresh foods into the school cafeteria. By partnering with Community Health Improvement Partners and including the entire school, they were able to create a plan to provide their students with access to healthier foods while supporting the local agricultural economy through their farm to school program.
“We reached out to the superintendent down to the principals, teachers, parents, different organizations in the community, our maintenance department. We invited everybody,” shared Vista Unified School District Nutrition Education and Training Supervisor, Amy Haessly.
“It was a huge collaboration of people who came from everywhere who were interested in using the fresh farm produce that was available in our area,” says Stephanie Ross, cafeteria lead for the T.H.E. Leadership Academy at Vista Unified School District. “Bringing it all together was the exciting thing.”
The district’s farm to school program continues to grow dramatically, from the procurement of 78,000 pounds in the 2017-18 school year to 140,000 pounds in the first seven months of the 2018-2019 year.
Since 2015, school meal participation has increased by 6.5[TS1] %, and the district has expanded local procurement by 500%, now purchasing from more than 60 California farmers. As the fourth largest district in San Diego County, Vista Unified School District is now a model for other schools in the area.
Jamie Phillips, Director of Child Nutrition, wants to continue to increase the percentage of local foods provided each year. “I want to serve 80%, or higher, California-grown food,” he says, “I want to get to the point where we have the scale where I can have other school districts pick up produce from us once a week.”
After touring the Vista Unified School District kitchen facility, Shiloh Strawbridge, mother of a student says, “It really opened my eyes. The tour changed my perception of a school lunch to ‘My kid is getting school lunch, and it’s amazing!’”