I attended the Massachusetts Farm to School Project “Shoptalk” conference a couple weeks ago, which featured speakers that are successfully integrating local farm produce into schools.
I’ve always wondered how large school districts start up their programs, and I got to hear from a few different schools, including Boston, the largest in MA. Boston has 135 schools in its district, and getting local food is a lot more complicated than getting it, say, to my small independent school. While Boston initially contacted a farm with an interest in purchasing, getting the produce to all of their schools would take too much time for one farm. To work around the logistics, they found a produce delivery company that was already trucking produce into Boston. However, Boston wanted to ensure that they were getting local produce from the farm they picked out and not items from far away. This delivery company began labeling all boxes so that they could distinguish one farm from another. What a great idea!
I also happily listened to Ken Watts of Johnson and Wales University, which runs a top culinary school in the country. Johnson and Wales not only uses local produce in their school in Rhode Island, it is educating the next generation of chefs about it. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and when I attended, local produce wasn’t emphasized in classes despite its close proximity to farms. A look on their website and I see that a lot has changed since I went to school!
I left the conference completely inspired and with a list of contacts (including contact for Four Star Farms , which grows and mills its own grains right here in MA) and a bag brimming with information (including a link to Somerville Public School’s guide to How To Hold Cafeteria Taste Tests when introducing new foods to students - scroll to the bottom of the page to download the pdf).