An Amazing Month of Farm-to-School in San Diego County

By Colin Cureton, CHIP Food Systems Director

March has been an amazing month of milestones, memorable moments, and media coverage for farm-to-school in San Diego County! Simply put, we are on a roll!

Rather than trying to tell the full story ourselves, included in this post is a quick synopsis of  key events along with links to all the fantastic media coverage and resources that have come out in March.front cover

First, on March 15th CHIP released its third annual State of Farm to School in San Diego County report. The report is a comprehensive analysis of San Diego County’s 42 school districts’ farm-to-school activities in the 2014-2015 school year. Notably, the report found that these districts spent $6.9 million on local foods in 2014-2015 (or 9.5% of all school food purchases), thirty-three are conducting some kind of farm to school activities, and 24 school districts operate over 200 school gardens across the County. A separate, forthcoming post will dig into the report’s findings in greater detail.

The report was released in conjunction with the Center for Ecoliteracy’s exciting California Thursdays luncheon in Waterfront Park on March 16th and their statewide Collective Action Day on March 17th. In Waterfront Park, well over 150 key stakeholders including local elected officials, state and federal representatives, local farmers, school food leaders, leadership of allied organizations, local and national funders, researchers, school wellness practitioners, and good food advocates gathered to enjoy a real school lunch prepared by nine San Diego County school districts. Each district showed us “what local looks like” by preparing and serving one of their district’s California Thursdays recipes side-by-side with a local farmer, food producer, or food business that helped make that meal possible. From fish tacos and ceviche to quinoa salad to organic baby greens and “Bison Joes,” a fantastic lunch was had by all!

Clockwise from upper-left: Luncheon Co-Host Supervisor Ron Roberts addressing the attendees, Oceanside Unified School District staff featuring fresh hyproponic greens from Go Green Agriculture, CHIP Food Systems team, and students and staff from San Ysidro School District with CA Thursdays wrapped van. Photos courtesy of Kussy Mackenzie (UCSD Center for Community Health) and Center for Ecoliteracy.

The following day, a dozen districts around the County (and 60 districts around the State) participated in California Thursdays 2016 Collective Action Day, which celebrated the launch and/or continued commitment of these districts to serving California-sourced, freshly prepared meals as part of their California Thursdays program. The activities were simply too diverse to adequately describe here. To give a sense, here is a blog post recounting the Collective Action Day events in Julian Union Elementary School District. Another separate post will re-cap the celebrations that took place across the County and State.

In the weeks following, farm-to-school has been front and center in the local media. On March 16th, CW6 San Diego dedicated a video segment interviewing (and cooking with!) Chef Jeremy Manley, the chef and owner of Jeremy’s on the Hill, a local farm to table restaurant in Julian which, through a unique partnership, prepares all the meals for Julian Union Elementary School District (JUESD). Together they cooked “Bison Joes” (sloppy joes made with local bison) and discussed the lauch of California Thursdays in JUESD.

A week later, a March 23rd article in the San Diego Union Tribune featured the farm-to-school efforts of one San Diego County school district participating in California Thursdays, San Ysidro School District, and placed those efforts within the context of regional efforts including the Farm to School Taskforce and citing research from the recent State of Farm to School report.

A third story on these events just went live on the Live Well San Diego News and Success Stories page. The article re-caps the events of March 16th and 17th, details the impact of California Thursdays, and discusses the crucial work that CHIP and the Farm to School Taskforce have done to pave the way for the rapid growth of California Thursdays in San Diego County school districts. The article includes some great quotes from Colin Cureton, CHIP Food Systems Director, and Vista Unified’s farm-to-school champion, Amy Haessly.


But wait, there’s more! In addition to the California Thursdays activities and coverage, Elizabeth Vaughan, CHIP Food Systems Coordinator, was quoted several times in a San Diego Reader article that covered a Healthy Food Access Forum hosted by the San Diego Food Systems Alliance. Elizabeth presented at the forum on all the great work going on in San Diego County school districts.

The media attention directed at San Diego’s good food movement is not restricted to farm-to-school by any means. A number of our partners are getting plenty of coverage as well. The San Diego Reader article touches on the efforts of other local leaders including the San Diego Food Systems Alliance (of which CHIP is a member), The County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, Feeding America San Diego, and more. Also, on Tuesday, March 29th KPBS aired a segment interviewing Robin McNulty of the San Diego Hunger Coalition on school breakfast and child food insecurity, immediately followed by a segment on the new documentary, Kitchenistas of National City, which features Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center’s Kitchenistas initiative.

All of this coverage demonstrates that farm-to-school and food systems change are, indeed, front and center in the public square (or should we say at the center of the plate?). Kudos to everyone across the County moving forward such news-worthy work. We hope to bring you lots more great coverage throughout 2016!

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