The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) Extension’s Family Nutrition Program has an innovative training program that links Farm to School and Smarter Lunchrooms elements. School districts work hard to procure local foods, and cafeterias want to see students taking and eating those fresh, local items.
Typically, this training takes place during a four-hour block of time on a day or evening that is specifically set aside for cafeteria manager and staff training. For two hours cafeteria professionals spend time with a chef. They review knife skills and food handling specifically related to fresh produce. After some demonstrations the group splits into groups to prepare a recipe that utilizes fresh produce. The recipes all use fresh produce that is local to Florida and meet the school meal pattern requirements. Participants then sample each dish.
After the food preparation portion of the training, participants take part in a two hour Smarter Lunchrooms Movement training. During this portion of the training they review the guiding principles of Smarter Lunchrooms, learn how to complete the self-assessment scorecard, and create an action plan for their cafeteria.
Adequate time and training for the preparation of fresh produce is a commonly cited barrier of a Farm to School program. The food preparation portion of this training takes a step in the direction of breaking down that barrier. Following the chef training with a Smarter Lunchrooms presentation gives cafeteria professionals the tools they need to set up their lunchroom in a way that makes those fresh, local foods most likely to be selected by students. Some of the Smarter Lunchrooms techniques that best compliment Farm to School products include: displaying local fruits in a nice bowl or basket, giving vegetables a descriptive name, and highlighting featured local items on menu boards and posters. This training is funded through SNAP-Education funds.
At first glance Farm to School and Smarter Lunchrooms seem like completely separate programs. While each initiative has its own take on working in the field of school food, when implemented simultaneously they complement one another to bring improvements to the school cafeteria.
Read more about Farm to School Program successes here!