Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Education

Pinellas school cafeterias serving more local produce

At trendy restaurants, chefs prepare their fancy creations with fresh, locally grown produce .

Now, trendy school cafeterias do the same thing.

One day earlier this month, a driver from Bliss Produce arrived at Safety Harbor Middle School and wheeled in several crates of tangelos grown by Joshua Citrus Inc. in Arcadia.

In no time, cafeteria workers had washed the tangelos, sliced them with a "sectionizer," and placed the fruit slices in parfaits and teriyaki chicken salads.

Fresh Florida citrus served to hungry Florida school kids — nothing seems more obvious. But a lot of the food served in school cafeterias, like a lot of the food served anywhere, comes from large food suppliers who ship it in from afar.

In recent years, Florida schools have made an effort to use more produce from Florida farms, because it's healthy and local. The effort gained new momentum this year, after the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services took over responsibility for school food programs.

"Our society got away from scratch cooking. So did the schools," said Robin Safley, who handles food and nutrition programs for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Pinellas schools serve tens of thousands of students each day, so it's not always possible to take a shopping trip to the nearest farm. Besides, Safley said, "Produce is tricky. If it gets delivered on Monday it needs to be served on Tuesday. It doesn't have much of a shelf life."

But lately, she said, "there definitely has been a push to go back to fresh and local."

The state agriculture department has now set up a system in which Florida farms can bid to provide citrus, broccoli, corn, peppers, tomatoes and many other fresh fruits and vegetables. The school system's regular produce providers can make the deliveries.

Also, the department has helped provide recipes to the school systems, in case the staff isn't sure how to make okra appealing to third-graders. The department also has educational posters so kids can learn about what they're eating.

Some of the recipes might sound like a tough sell to picky eaters — one sample recipe is cauliflower with Craisins. But Barbara Dalesandro, food service manager at Safety Harbor Middle, said students are actually much more willing than you might think to try new foods. Some track her down at the school to ask her about the latest offerings.

"They love oranges, they'll eat all these up," she said after a recent delivery.

Art Dunham is Pinellas County schools' director of food services, and he's enthusiastic about the program. Not only do the students get good fresh fruits and vegetables, but at the right point in the season, the prices are very good, he said.

Safley said she hopes that as the program matures, more farmers will provide food, which will provide more healthy options for children.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18