2016 is Going to Be BIG!

What's on our plate

  • CAF Programs
  • March 28, 2016
  • By: Mara Fleishman
  • Comments

Our team has powered into 2016 with a BIG goal in mind: reach 393,750 more kids this year with our healthy school food programing. We have a really tall order to fill, but the organization is so energized about the new programing we have coming out and so moved by the feedback we have received from schools and districts across the country. Like this email we received from Robert Cuellar, Food Service Director from Laredo Independent School District in Laredo, TX: 

I want to applaud you for assisting school districts, such as Laredo ISD in providing salad bars with the ultimate goal of encouraging and empowering students to eat healthier meals like salads!

I get inspired and motivated by the little children every day that are looking forward to a healthy, delicious and nutritious meal in our school cafeterias. For many of them, the school meals are the only nutritious meals that they receive (Laredo has a high rate of poverty).

On behalf of Laredo ISD and all the 24,000 plus students that go through our cafeteria line, I want to say, “thanks a million” for assisting us; truly you all are awesome, and we are all a team striving to keep children healthy to live healthier, productive lives as adults. For the children are our future leaders.

A lot of the hard work in 2015 has paid off and we are moving into 2016 with a strong base to work from. Below are just a few program highlights that are underway this year.

Current Programs

Project Produce

With the support of our great sponsors Healthy Skoop and the Walmart Foundation we are projecting to fund 124 Project Produce grants in 2016 – that means we will reach 62,000 kids with fruits and veggies.  Project Produce is really helping schools create a lunchroom environment that supports learning and healthy habits. Schools are getting creative with the $2,500 grants and coming up with really innovative lunchroom education activities. Just one of the projects currently underway is from Samuel Gompers Elementary School in Madison, WI. They’ve hosted winter “Root For Winter Veggies!” tasting events and are starting on their spring “Spring for a Salad!” events as the seasons change. They’ve also create a “6 Plant Parts – Taste Them All!” event featuring fruit and veggie samples from all six parts of the plant – Fruit (like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers), seed (like peas and strawberries), flower (asparagus), stem (rhubarb and kohlrabi), leaf (lettuce and spinach), and root (radishes and other root vegetables).

New Recipes

CAF was so honored to have been chosen to receive a USDA Farm to School grant. With this funding CAF will be able to add 50 new USDA compliant school food recipes to The Lunch Box. We have heard schools loud and clear and know that more recipes are something they need. We will be working with our partner, Boulder Valley School District, to test recipes from other schools and organizations from across the country. An added bonus is that these 50 new recipes will also be adapted to meet Pre-K guidelines!

Salad Bars

With our partners at Whole Kids Foundation and United Fresh Start Foundation we are aiming to donate 420 more salad bars in 2016, which would bring our total salad bars granted number up to 4,600, reaching 2,300,000 kids. Crunch on that!

 

School Food Support Initiative

Thanks to our partners Life Time Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation we were so excited to announce our 2016 SFSI grantees: Bellingham Public Schools, Buford City Schools, Passaic Public Schools, Warren City Schools and Watertown Public Schools.  This program helps school districts establish healthier meal programs by switching from heat and serve to scratch cook operations. We are so excited to help these districts develop and implement strategic plans for change, and the work is well underway! At this stage in the program, we’re on the ground assessing current district operations so we can create customized plans of attack for each district.

 

In the Works

​School Food Trucks

​Food Trucks have been a staple in the foodie scene for a while, but now we are starting to see schools adopt this food service method as a way to spark interest in their programs and make school food cool. The benefits of food truck programing are clear – they have been shown to increase student lunch participation, raise awareness for healthy school food options, and bring in added revenue through off-hour catering. We are building out a new program that will provide schools the tools, resources and funding to help launch their own successful food truck programs. 

Sustainable Lunchrooms

5 billion lunches are served each year in school cafeterias and many schools are serving those lunches in single serve plastic packages with disposable plates, forks and knives. As you can imagine, that adds up to an incredible amount of plastic and styrofoam in the trash. We have a Sustainable Lunchroom program in the works that will help districts transition to reusable service ware and reduce lunchroom waste. 

Central Kitchens

Limited kitchen space and lack of kitchen equipment is a huge problem for schools. Believe it or not, one of the biggest obstacles to scratch-cooked school food is the fact that many school districts don’t have working kitchens to cook in. A central production facility is an efficient, cost-effective way to go, but breaking ground on a whole new kitchen facility can seem like a daunting investment. We plan to launch a new content area on The Lunch Box that will guide districts through this next big step in scratch cook operations. 

 

As you can see, this is going to be a BIG year for CAF and a big year for school food reform too. As Robert from Laredo said, we are all a team, and together we will make sure our nation’s kids are leading healthy, productive, and vibrant lives.

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