-Compton Unified School District
Compton Unified School District’s new Farm to School program has been functioning and expanding since February 2004. The Compton Unified School District has thirty-nine schools and an average of 93.8 percent of students receive free or reduced price meals. With nearly 100 percent of elementary students in Compton eating at least one meal at school per day, CUSD has the opportunity to significantly impact the health of its children. For this reason, the district’s new food director, Tracie Thomas (formerly of Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District) was inspired to implement a farm to school project as a way of offering kids exposure to nutritious food choices and fostering healthy behavior.
Each day, students have the option of choosing either a hot entrée or the salad bar for lunch. The produce comes from Garden Patch, the same group of farmers worked with the Santa Monica Malibu Farmers’ Market Salad Bar Program. Garden Patch delivers to CUSD’s centralized warehouse where district staff pick up the produce and deliver the items to the individual schools. Currently, one new school receives a salad bar approximately every month. If the program continues to follow this ambitious roll out plan, all twenty-four CUSD elementary schools will have a salad bar by May 17th, 2006.
The Compton Nutrition Services provided the funds necessary to begin implementation of the farm to school project during the 2003-2004 school year. This occurred mainly due to the priorities and funding choices of the department, but it the Nutrition Services department also benefits from receiving a slightly higher than normal reimbursement rate from the government. This program benefits from a strong commitment to it at the district and departmental level, the high participation in the salad bar program, funding from the Nutrition Network, and careful management and purchasing decisions. In addition, the California Nutrition Network provided funding to do nutrition education in thirteen schools. This enabled project coordinators to create a holistic farm to school program that focused on educating about and providing children with fruits and vegetables both in the cafeteria and the classroom.
Aside from farm to school, Compton is expanding its nutrition program to include many innovate programs. The district’s goal is to have a school garden in every school that is receiving farm fresh produce. There has also been action taken to develop a large community school garden that could serve as an education center and food source for the district and the community.
Pam Williams, the CUSD nutrition specialist, integrates nutrition and fruit and vegetable education into the classroom through the Harvest of the Month Program. This program is sponsored by the Nutrition Network to support food and nutrition education while exposing students to various fruits and vegetables. Through this program, participating teachers receive fresh produce delivered once a month to the classroom and a newsletter, which contains user-friendly ideas for nutrition and food education Nutrition education in the classroom.
Student Nutrition Advisory Councils (NAC) are forming in CUSD schools. The NAC’s are designed to provide an opportunity for students to learn about nutrition and health, involve students in planning and implementing projects that support healthy habits and encourage participation in the school food service program, and serve as a communication bridge between students, administrators, school nutrition service personnel facility.