Corvallis recently won a One in a Melon Award for the district’s commitment to locally grown produce. The award is offered to those districts who do the best job of not only providing students with the most locally grown produce, but also teaching children about healthy nutrition, and it’s easy to see why we got it.
The Makings of a Great Meal
Kathy Adair, Operations Assistant for the Food and Nutrition Services Department (FNS), mentions that milk, jam, and locally grown and milled flour combine with local fruits and vegetables to make for some of the best lunch food available in schools nationwide. Though June 2016 meals featured typical school foods like pizza and chicken nuggets, this does not tell the whole story. Required by new USDA standards to be at least 51% whole grain, the breading on the chicken nuggets and pizza dough is made from scratch. Corvallis even uses a grant from the Oregon Department of Education to run their own local bakery in order to generate the healthiest products possible for Corvallis children.
Going beyond just quality nutrition, schools in our district offer parents of children with allergies an official state form that they and the child’s doctor must sign. FNS has generated special menus to help the schools better serve children with gluten, dairy, and nut intolerance, as well as those that adhere to a vegetarian diet. Though children with specific religious observances do not receive separate meals, items on the menu that contain pork are separately noted to make them easy to avoid.
Every school is audited regularly in terms of their food nutrition programs so as to check program compliance with regulations.
Adair says proudly, “we actually aced our audit,” and goes on to explain that they were told they were essentially top of the class by their safety program.
Thanks to Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program, the requirements for schools have changed significantly as of late. For example, children are now required to have at least half a cup of vegetables with their lunch. In Corvallis, schools put the vegetables onto childrens’ plates to be certain they will eat them. A salad bar is also available to students, including a variety of local vegetables and fruits.
Developing menus a year in advance, the district makes early offers to vendors who provide a nutritional analysis of the food as provided by the actual manufacturers. For local products, the district collaborates with the Applegate Purchasing Group to approach local farms.
Meals Above and Beyond
So the Corvallis school district is killing it during the on season, but what about when those spring showers decide to roll it up for a handful of months? Well, they’ve got summer covered as well. During the hot months Corvallis serves free meals to local children – in fact, anyone under the age of 18 can show up to one of the selected sites and receive a free breakfast or lunch. These sites are strategically placed to coincide with summer camps, so that children who attend might have access to meals. The district receives federal reimbursement for every meal served, which helps the program to perpetuate itself.
Looking to the Future
Adair explains that they expect to have served about 45,000 meals by the end of the summer – and that they’ll definitely be up and running for the next after another standard school year. With their current track record and attitude towards the future, it looks like things are only set to get brighter.
By Ariadne Wolf