By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
***Cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***
A quick quiz: If you could be a student anywhere in the nation during National School Lunch Week, which state would you choose? Easy answer, right? California! Students across the nation celebrated this annual observance last week, October 12-18, and of course the California kids had the best spread to choose from. But then, we’re allowed to be a bit biased about things like that at CDFA – in fact, we’re proud of it.
To show our pride, California is taking National School Lunch Week one step further today (October 23) with “California Thursdays,” a partnership at schools throughout the state seeking to serve more healthy, freshly prepared, California-grown fruits and vegetables in cafeterias. The project is a collaboration by the Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL), partner school districts and allied organizations; and will make each Thursday a focal point for featured California-grown menu items at our schools. It’s a great way for students to learn that their state’s agriculture is something to take pride in – and something to take part in as well.
CDFA has provided support for the program with a Specialty Crop Block Grant, and our Office of Farm to Fork is helping participating schools source directly from California growers. I’m pleased to note that Office of Farm to Fork employees will be in Turlock today for the “California Thursdays” event there.
California’s innovative growers, our Mediterranean climate, our rich and varied soils, and all of the other ingredients that our state boasts help to make this the very best place for a student to get a tasty, healthy, nutritious, energy-infusing school lunch. We also have a lot of dedicated, hard-working cooks, chefs, nutritionists, food service professionals and school staff throughout this state who make it their business to put California produce on the menu at our schools. From farmers to administrators, servers and students, it takes all of us to get the job done.
There will be “California Thursdays” rollout events in 15 different school districts: Alvord, Coachella Valley, Conejo Valley, Elk Grove, Hemet, La Honda-Pescadero, Lodi, Los Angeles, Monterey Peninsula, Oakland, Oceanside, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, and Turlock. We look forward to seeing that list grow in the future.
These events are wonderful ways to feature California-grown produce, enrich the lives and the nutrition of our students, and emphasize the natural link between health and education.