By: Kate Olender, Senior Director, Health & Wellness, United Fresh Produce Association
When the kids at Valencia Park Elementary bite into a Golden Nugget Tangerine from their cafeteria salad bar they know about the farm on which it was grown, thanks to Harvest of the Month videos from the San Diego Unified School District.
San Diego Unified School District, which serves over 24 million meals annually and whose creative salad bar programming was highlighted during January’s United Fresh Start Foundation Annual Conference, creates Harvest of the Month videos for classrooms. The videos are filmed on the farm that grows the Harvest of the Month fruit or vegetable, which is then featured on salad bars every Wednesday for a month across the district.
Harvest of the Month videos serve as virtual field trips. In them, growers walk the fields, talking about the farm and the fruit or vegetable they grow for the kids, and offer personal messages to their young consumers.
In the Golden Nugget Tangerine video, Al Stehly, Grove Manager, opens a tangerine and slurps the flesh, exclaiming with a full mouth, “oh, they’re so good, so juicy all over my hands.” He ends with a message to the kids, smiling and peeling a tangerine while saying “I hope you enjoy the Golden Nugget Tangerine as much as I enjoy growing them for you.”
The videos add an educational component to the district’s salad bars. “When I go into a school and ask kids to name an orange fruit or vegetable, they’ll name persimmons and kumquats. I know their awareness of these less-common foods is coming from the salad bar, and that the fruit and vegetable facts they share come from the Harvest of the Month videos” says Amy Garfinkel, Farm to School Program Specialist at the San Diego Unified School District.
In some schools, salad bars are further supported with in-class taste tests of the Harvest of the Month fruit or vegetable. The schools in which kids sample the Harvest of the Month selection and watch the associated video report increased consumption of produce from their salad bars. In fact, the schools have increased their orders of produce as a result.
The United Fresh Start Foundation helped donate 58 of the district’s 400 salad bars, and is pleased to see creative in-class programming that complements the salad bars. The San Diego Unified School District demonstrates that by working together – farmers, teachers, administrators, and our Foundation – we can maximize the impact of salad bars, and extend their lessons well beyond the cafeteria.
This year, Harvest of the Month features Black Splendor Plums, Rainbow Carrots, Red Flame Grapes, PeeWee Avocados, and more. All salad bar schools participate in Harvest of the Month and all teachers may show the Harvest of the Month video in their classroom. Two schools also provide in-classroom taste tests; additional funding would allow additional schools to provide them. To find out how you can support the San Diego Unified School District’s Harvest of the Month Club, contact Andrew Marshall. You may download the San Diego Unified School District’s presentation from the United Fresh Start Foundation Annual Conference here.