Many of these students will receive most or all of their day’s caloric intake from school meals, making it vitally important to ensure that those meals are as nutritionally dense as they can be. MNPS Nutrition Services, with support from the Alignment Nashville School Nutrition Team, has worked hard over the last 3 years to implement whole-food scratch cooking in MNPS cafeterias through the Healthier Cafés initiative, and is now collaborating with key stakeholders on Farm To School—an initiative to get wholesome, farm-fresh produce into school kitchens and onto the plates of students who need it most.
Through collaboration with Community Food Advocates, Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Tennessee Department of Education, Nashville Farmers’ Market and others, the School Nutrition A-Team and MNPS has been working over the last year to develop a two-pronged tactical plan around healthy eating, local sourcing, and food/agriculture education:
Work with local farms (within 250-mile radius), extension offices, and other agricultural stakeholders to build partnerships and farm capacity to provide local produce to Metro Nashville Public Schools
Work with educators, partner farms, and other agricultural/educational stakeholders to develop engaging educational content to work in tandem with the fresh produce being served in MNPS cafeterias
The A-Team began work on its procurement tactic by conducting several audits of MNPS’ café menus to determine frequently-used and easy-to-source produce items. Strawberries were chosen as the key product for the first pilot to take place in spring of 2015, and the team then selected five schools from the original list of Healthier Café pilot schools to potentially receive local berries: Rosebank, Park Avenue, Cole, Glengarry, and Glenview Elementary Schools.
The A-Team also worked with MNPS principals to gauge interest and capacity for a possible Farm To School educational component, via the release of a survey in summer 2015. The survey yielded valuable information from administrators about what their school schedules can accommodate and what kinds of educational pieces may be of value to their students, including farmer visits, field trips, educational materials for teachers, school gardens, and more.
15 schools receive produce of any kind from within 250 miles of school
Different local fruit or vegetable is offered at least 5 times during academic year
5 elementary schools receive produce from within 250 miles of school during spring season
RFI is released to collect information from regional farmers regarding capacity for production, processing, and delivery of produce
At least 1 farm is engaged through RFI to provide produce for spring season to 5 schools