As told to Kate Olender, Senior Director, Health & Wellness, United Fresh Produce Association
At this year’s United Fresh Show, we will honor Eric Goldstein, Chief Executive, School Support Services, New York City Department of Education in New York, NY, with the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award in K-12 School Foodservice. Eric is dedicated to increasing children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables through New York City schools, and his district has received over 70 salad bars from our Salad Bars to Schools program. Eric told us about how he brings “fresh” to the 1.1 million students he serves daily.
Tell us about your district and its fresh produce purchasing.
We serve 1.1 million students each day, which amounts to about 130 million meals each year. We spend over $22.5 million on fresh produce each year.
Why do you find it valuable to have a relationship with your produce distributor?
Our vendors are valued partners that help us plan menus based on seasons and availability. They help us maximize efficiencies and costs, and help us serve our students the freshest produce possible. We’re dedicated to offering a larger variety and we look forward to working with our vendors to source new items in the future.
How have you shared your knowledge about the importance of serving fresh produce with other school foodservice professionals?
Collaboration is key! We share lessons with other New York districts and have hosted visits for officials across the US and abroad. We also consistently engage members of the Urban School Food Alliance, which includes 11 districts in total. We share best practices on menu development and local sourcing of fresh produce.
What is “Fresh Attitude Week,” and how does it support produce consumption?
Fresh Attitude Week is an annual event in May that celebrates fresh fruits and vegetables. The special week has promotions to encourage fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, and was introduced through the Urban School Food Alliance’s partnership with the French Department of Agriculture and Interfel (French Inter-Branch Association of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables), which created the celebratory week. Alliance districts in America, along with schools in France and Italy, raise awareness about the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in schools.
How has “Fresh Attitude Week” helped you bring more fresh produce to school breakfast?
We regularly serve fresh bananas, oranges, and apples in NYC and believe that providing these fresh options is a great way for students to start the day. We understand the importance of fresh fruits and breakfast and the whole nutrients that they provide to students of all ages. In NYC, we used Fresh Attitude Week to highlight even more fresh produce. We showcased fresh fruit during breakfast, using our school salad bars. Not only did this increase fresh fruit consumption for the day, but we believe it has increased breakfast participation in our schools as well.
We love how you used your salad bar to support fresh produce at breakfast! Tell us more about why salad bars are valuable?
Salad bars provide students of all grades with the opportunity to self-select items they would like to eat. We offer salad bars after the serving line as a complement to the meal, and we have received positive feedback from students. Now, as we’re about to enter our 10th year of having salad bars in all schools with kitchens, we’re building on the salad bars to complement the menu item of the day. For example, if we’re serving tacos or chili, the items on the salad bar would be chopped and diced. Seeing our youngsters eating fresh produce from their salad bar and getting used to it is just a thrill.