Fresh Farm-to-School Programs Continue at Orange County Public Schools

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Orange County Public Schools introduces new menu items to students using fresh ingredients and bold new flavors.

Orange County Public Schools focuses on introducing flavors to its menus with recipes that are freshly prepared in schools. New “fast, from scratch” preparations include slicing and dicing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, celery, and onions. Menu concepts have included an expansion of our rice and pasta bowls, hot sandwiches, non-tomato based pastas, more fresh vegetable sides, and the addition of extra fresh fruit offered on our K-8 lunch menus.

The school meals program is an enterprise within the district and does not receive funding from the district. All funds are earned by serving meals that meet the USDA nutrition requirements. USDA requires fruits and vegetables on every meal and the district offers two choices at breakfast and four at lunch. Students are required to take at least one serving of fruit or vegetable at each meal. To ensure that students like what they are required to take, taste tests are completed for every recipe or product before it is placed on the menu.

The district’s local produce distributor receives fresh products for the schools from about 50 Florida farmers, which represents 17 percent of the total purchased for the FY19 school year. The Harvest of the Month School Program serves to identify the fresh produce available in Florida for menu planning purposes. This includes strawberries, blueberries, corn, cucumbers, green beans, oranges, mushrooms, tomatoes and watermelon. “Opportunity Buys” allow farmers who have excess produce the ability to sell food at a lower cost to school districts. The OCPS food service program has participated in several of these opportunities. Just recently, honeydew melons were offered at almost half of the usual cost.

Examples of menu concepts currently featuring fresh produce are:

  • Fresh Hummus made with tahini and served with cucumbers to dip
  • Hacienda Chicken Bowl – fresh red and green peppers
  • Fresh Roasted Carrots
  • Red Bliss Potato Salad – fresh small red potatoes
  • Cucumber & Tomato salad – all freshly prepared in schools
  • Beef Pot Roast (a student favorite in the cooler months) with fresh yellow squash
  • Korean Chicken Stir Fry – shredded fresh carrots, red peppers and cilantro

School lunch at Ocoee High School now features produce grown on-campus inside the school’s own greenhouse. Students have learned the processes for hydroponic gardening and now the procurement process of becoming a vendor, developing a bid and delivering the produce to the food service program. Students understand the value of locally grown produce because they develop the bid price according to their costs and the school food service program purchases their cucumbers and tomatoes. The plan for the upcoming year will add romaine lettuce to the menu. An additional green house is being added at Edgewater High School.

Food and Nutrition Services has adopted food sourcing and sustainability practices that reduce the negative impact on our environment. By focusing on local purchases for our fresh bread, milk and produce, we can reduce our carbon footprint by lowering the amount of fossil fuels used in transport. Our cafés have completely replaced polystyrene foam trays with 100 percent molded fiber trays, and we switched the traditional plastic cutlery over to a compostable one that decomposes in the landfill. From February thru June 2019, the food service program saved an estimated 1,713,320 pieces of polystyrene foam going to the landfill over the same time last year (18 percent). This prevented approximately 12,297,000 polystyrene foam from the landfill, a 51 percent reduction from FY18 to FY19.

(For more information, please contact Kate Quinones at 407.657.4818)

OCPS EEO Non-Discrimination Statement

The School Board of Orange County, Florida, does not discriminate in admission or access to, or treatment or employment in its programs and activities, on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, marital status, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other reason prohibited by law. The following individuals at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center, 445 W. Amelia Street, Orlando, Florida 32801, attend to compliance matters: Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer & Title IX Coordinator: Keshara Cowans; ADA Coordinator: Michael D. Graf; Section 504 Coordinator: Tajuana Lee-Wenze. (407.317.3200)

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Kate Quinones
Costa Communications Group
+1 (407) 657-4818
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since: 07/2014
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