Orange County (FL) Public Schools has unveiled its new district-wide Fresh to Schools initiative to increase the menu selection of fresh produce for students. The initiative was inspired by OCPS Oak Ridge High School student school-based organization Youth 4 Change, which met with the district’s Food and Nutrition Services staff and school officials to address their desire to have more fresh produce menu selections.
“It is very encouraging when students really do want to eat their fruits and vegetables, as do the students of Oak Ridge High School,” says Robin Safley, director of the Florida Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, who attended the kickoff event at Oak Ridge High. "In Florida, we are fortunate to have an abundance of fresh produce from Florida farmers to meet the demand of school districts, such as Orange County Public Schools."
The Fresh to Schools initiative is also an extension of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign’s HealthierUS School Challenge. Also attending the initiative launch ceremony were State Senator Gary Siplin, OCPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins and Florida farmers Pero Family Farms and R.C. Hatton.
The district currently offers more than 20 servings per week of fresh fruits and vegetables through school breakfast, lunch and snacks. This equates to more than 1.5 million pounds of fresh produce annually.
“Our school salad concept allows students to choose from a variety of fruits and vegetables, while going through the lunch line,” says Lora Gilbert, senior director of OCPS Food & Nutrition Services. "It keeps everything clean and easier to grab than salad bars of the past, while still meeting the USDA requirement for US Schools and our student customer’s requests."
School districts nationwide look to provide the best selection of fresh, great tasting menu items for students, but the challenge is the rising cost of food. “It would greatly help school districts if the USDA would consider raising its reimbursement of monies per student to match our costs,” offers Gilbert.
Orange County Schools serves more than 26 million meals and snacks each year. That is approximately 143,000 breakfast and lunch meals daily.