It’s been a bit of a journey from farm to table, but now that two items have made the grade, Lisa Scheetz, NJPHK-Vineland Program Coordinator, is optimistic that more will follow.
Scheetz credits the collaboration of NJPHK-Vineland partners city of Vineland Health Department, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Rutgers Innovation Center, Vineland Public Schools and food vendor Sodexo for bringing Jersey Farm Fresh offerings to Vineland public school cafeterias.
It started with a wellness policy. Ryan Long, the city of Vineland’s Healthy Schools Champion connected with the local Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Alliance helps schools rethink what it means to be in a place that supports healthy decisions. Its Recognition Award showcases and acknowledges schools that have implemented changes in order to create healthier school environments. Awards are granted at the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels to signify a school’s well-being.
NJPHK-Vineland had been partnering with the Vineland School District on their Wellness Policy and the formation of a Wellness Council. With the guidance of the Alliance, the School District strengthened its policy and two Vineland public schools—Landis Intermediate School and Wallace Middle School—qualified for the Alliance Bronze award.
Sodexo agreed to provide food choices in keeping with the Bronze service menu.
Diane Holtaway Associate Director of Client Services at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center thought it would be great to create special Jersey Fresh food selections to complement the school lunch menu. Combining grants from Jersey Farm to School and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the Center worked with well-known school chef Anthony Geraci to formulate recipes that would use Jersey produce and appeal to school children.
Seven potential lunch items were narrowed down to two by a team of student taste testers. Those items are now being served in Vineland Public Schools.
According to Holtaway, New Jersey is a leader in taking farm fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and creating products for school menus. Today it’s blueberries and pasta sauce made with Jersey fresh sweet peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and farm fresh herbs. More innovative meals are planned for the next school year.SHARE: