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FUSD is on track to develop a new Food Services Department Policy that will impact thousands of students!

Fresno, California – On December 15, 2017, the Food Services Department reviewed a draft policy that will impact over 75,000 students in the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD). This policy, underscores the importance of procuring local food for student consumption.

The policy will assist FUSD in creating a more equitable and healthy food systems, by ensuring long-term procurement food policies and plans are in place. With input from stakeholders and community partners, the policy,  in collaboration with Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (Fresno EOC), Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development, and UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), serves as a point of reference for agricultural and food procurement bids.

This policy will provide guidance to agricultural and food procurement bids issued by the Food Services Department in meeting its local food purchasing and nutritional goals. It highlights local geographic preference, bidding thresholds, student educational engagement, and its bidding methods. It also recommends a set percentage increase of district’s food budget for local food and farm products per year.

Fresno Unified School District has been purchasing from local farmers since 2014. The district has engaged in local procurement and   Farm to School efforts for the last several years, however, the policy will increase these efforts. FUSD is the fourth largest school district in California, serving more than 75,000 students. Its Food Services Department prepares 98,000 meals per day, and 222,000 summer meals per year, totaling approximately 18 million meals annually. Using more food that is locally procured will have a direct economic impact and is more healthy for students.

Moreover, FUSD has promoted healthy and local food consumption in multiple ways. For example, every year a Food Expo is hosted and designed to get students interested in healthy eating. During the  food taste testing event, different food vendors   educate students about nutrition and different food types. Students provide feedback on potential new menu items and allowed to touch and taste the food. This event allows students to experience new menu products in an interactive manner, exciting students enough, to ask for these healthy foods in their cafeterias. The event date for this year’s annual expo will be held on Wednesday, February 28, 2018.

“Procuring food locally is a win-win for our environment, our family farmers, local economy and students. As the 4th largest school district in California, located in the ‘bread basket’ of the nation, we are in an enviable position to lead in what is an ever-growing farm-to-school movement.’  Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, President of Fresno Unified School District.

FUSD has also initiated different types of hands-on learning experiences. Students participate in monthly field trips to the district’s central kitchen and nutrition center. During the   field trip students are  introduced to food production, nutrition and taste-testing of current and future menu items. Students also provide feedback on recipes and learn about the different pathways to food services careers.  Additionally, FUSD participates in the Fresno County Farm Bureau’s “Farm and Nutrition Day,” exposing 1,600 children per year, to the nature of agriculture in Fresno County.

The school district and its Food Services Department have proven its dedication to healthy food efforts in many ways. For example, the district has menu’d healthier alternatives, such as whole grain breakfast bars, whole grain pastas, and wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, together, the school district and its Food Service department, have also formed a Coordinated School Health Committee that aids in its healthy-eating efforts.

“With our Local Food Procurement Policy we are able to increase our access to locally sourced fresh agricultural products and food processing operations to support our local farming economies that are in our own backyard. More importantly, purchasing locally sourced foods reflects the district’s commitment to serve our students fresh, healthy and sustainable food each day to over 75,000 students.” Jose Alvarado, Director of Food Services for Fresno Unified School District.

The new policy will ensure that the best practices are institutionalized and will not change, due to the end of the grant period, or due to a change in personnel. The policy will produce a strong return on investment in the long term, because it addresses multiple levels of a local food options it has for the region.

“Fresno EOC applauds FUSD’s new policies promoting the sourcing of increased local food supplies which will lead to an improved economic climate for small and minority farmers, and improved nutritional outcomes for students.” Brian Angus, Chief Executive Officer, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.

“The linkage between healthy nutrition and local agriculture is simple…California farmers and ranchers grow the wholesome products needed for a balanced diet. I commend those school districts like Fresno Unified who have taken the initiative to actively pursue local produce and incorporate it onto students’ plates. Healthy eating habits begin early in life, and the partnership between farmers and school districts will benefit these children for years to come.” Ryan Jacobsen, CEO/Executive Director, Fresno County Farm Bureau.

The Fresh Grub brand reflects Fresno Unified’s commitment to providing its students with healthy meals consisting of local, fresh ingredients. Members of our region’s agriculture industry will play a larger role in supplying Fresno Unified with the food it will serve its students. The Fresh Grub brand also represents an opportunity for smaller agricultural operations in the region to integrate themselves into Fresno Unified’s food supply chain. Fresno Unified’ s commitment to “buying local” through the Fresh Grub brand will ultimately help sustain and create for food related jobs in our region. Ismael, D. Herrera, Jr., Associate Director, Office of Community and Economic Development California State University, Fresno.

NOTE: We hope that you see the benefits of this new policy and that you find our Farm to School Initiative, as much of an exciting effort, as we do.

If your school is not currently supporting local farms in your community, Farm Ready Education for School Health (FRESH) Program is a great way to become involved and to start your local Farm to School Initiative. For more info, please contact jensen.vang@fresnoeoc.org.

Disclaimer: This project has been partially federally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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