Schools are the “largest restaurant in town.” Each day, schools serve thousands of meals and snacks to the next generation of produce consumers. To support schools sourcing and offering a variety of quality produce, the United Fresh Start Foundation established the School Foodservice Forum, a two-day networking and education program that occurs each June at the United Fresh Expo.
Now in its sixth year, the School Foodservice Forum has become a “must attend” event for school foodservice buyers and menu-planners from many of the nation’s largest school districts. This year, we hosted 61 school foodservice leaders from 25 states, including administrators from Urban School Food Alliance districts, which collectively procure over $830 million in food and food supplies annually.
There are many school nutrition conferences out there, but the School Foodservice Forum is the only one that’s focused exclusively on fresh fruits and vegetables. When school foodservice leaders come to this conference, they know they’re coming to “talk produce” and to learn how to better incorporate more fresh fruits and veggies in their meal and snack menus.
During the Forum, school representatives talk with members of the produce industry, share ideas and best practices for sourcing and serving fresh produce, and attend the Fresh Festival for School Foodservice, a mini-expo featuring fresh produce and products applicable to K-12 foodservice.
School nutrition leaders are looking for new and innovative ways to serve fresh, and our Foundation and industry can help. Together, we can provide more kids with access to healthy, fresh fruits and veggies.
See what School Foodservice Forum attendees say about this year’s program:
“Having the opportunity to meet face to face with Food Service Directors from across the country and hear about the innovative ways they are incorporating more produce into their menus as well as hearing from industry experts about new products available for the K-12 market is invaluable. I always walk away from this meeting more energized and inspired, it is well worth the time and effort to attend.”
Amy Virus, MS, RD, LDN
Manager, Division of Food Services
School District of Philadelphia
“I have attended the United Fresh convention in previous years, but this year was the best! The level of information given and discussed by the vendors was outstanding. They were able to educate you on the product, growing etc. Also, the education sessions were informative and having other foodservice directors share innovative ideas that have been tried and work, as it relates to serving fresh fruits and vegetables, is a wonderful asset to other directors and the school nutrition community.”
Timikel Sharpe, MS
Executive Director of School Nutrition
Bibb County School District
The opportunity to interact with and have direct discussions with key people in the produce industry was invaluable! Since produce is a mandatory component of every school meal, being able to lend a voice to the discussion, as well as hear from others in the school nutrition field and in the produce industry, is crucial as we consider better ways to excite students about eating healthy vegetables and fruits.”
Micha James, M.S.
Nutrition Services Director
Monterey Peninsula Unified School District
“The annual United Fresh Conference in Chicago is a ‘must attend’ for me. The value of getting to meet both growers and processors, as well as equipment and industry vendors, is considerable. What better way is there for us in school foodservice to know the incredible variety of produce available from our farmers and processors, than to see and experience it firsthand? The more we know, the better we can market these items to our school children, to help boost both their overall health and their educational achievement. The School Food Service Forum was chock-full of proven, successful strategies to boost student consumption of fruits and vegetables.”
Executive Director, Food & Child Nutrition Services
Dallas Independent School District
By: Andrew Marshall, Director of Foundation Programs & Partnerships, United Fresh Produce Association