Garden to Cafeteria: Challenges and Opportunities

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Mountain View Whisman School District’s (MVWSD) Farm to Lunch program. With the generous support of the El Camino Healthcare District, our team of Garden to Cafeteria experts has guided the Living Classroom through the legal and logistical barriers to getting food grown in local school gardens into the school lunch program. As a result, the Living Classroom, which “inspires children to learn and value our natural world through garden-based education,” is now also providing produce for cafeteria meals. Read San Jose Mercury News article here.

Crittenden Middle School students harvest kale for use in their schools lunch program (Photo: Jacqueline Lee / Daily News).

According to Cathy Baur, Assistant Superintendent of MVWSD,

“The Farm to Lunch program combines the hands-on experience of growing food with the health benefits of better eating…Students may now be more connected and perhaps more receptive to eating healthy vegetables and fruits.”

At Grow Your Lunch, we believe that garden to cafeteria initiatives are “connection laboratories”— by connecting the garden and cafeteria food systems, we make connections to the seasons, to local farms and farmers, to our diverse cultural ancestries, and to the natural world. Once we are familiar with the foods grown in the garden, we will be more likely to eat them when they appear in a package, on the buffet line or salad bar.

The idea that children (and adults!) just don’t like healthy food is a myth. In fact, we are hard-wired to avoid foods with which we are not familiar. And yet, anyone at any stage in life can learn to enjoy new foods. As renowned food writer Bee Wilson states, “Liking something is a consequence of familiarity.”

Cultivating this familiarity with fresh fruits and vegetables through garden to cafeteria initiatives is what we are all about. Still, including garden-grown produce in institutional food programs faces some common impediments:

1.) Fears of not complying with local, state and federal food safety laws
2.) A lack of technical productive gardening know-how within the community
3.) An unwillingness to challenge the status quo with regard to food procurement

If you’d like to learn more about how we address these common challenges, check out our Garden to Cafeteria page.

Thank you for your contributions to this movement and your dedication to growing a healthier generation.

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