Five schools win Garden 2 Cafe Harvest Contest

Posted: Thursday, July 12th 2018


photos of carrots, tomatoes and lettuce

Challenger Middle and Kumeyaay, Miramar Ranch, Ocean Beach and Valencia Park elementary schools harvested 251 pounds of produce for their school cafeterias this year to win the Garden to Café Spring Harvest Contest.

Each spring, schools that are Garden to Café certified are encouraged to send in their student harvested produce to the school café where it is measured and then served. Food and Nutrition Services keeps track of the amount of produce each school garden sends in between January 1 and May 25, and the top five schools that harvest the most/have the highest volume win $200 for their school garden. 

The contest was sponsored by the Village Garden Club of La Jolla Schoolyard Garden Grant Committee. 

The Garden to Café program started in San Diego Unified in January 2013 and was the first school district in San Diego County to formalize a Garden to Café program. The program allows Food and Nutrition Services to serve garden grown produce as part of the school meal program, specifically on the salad bar.

School gardens are an important component of the district's Farm to School Program. The Garden to Café program helps to increase school meal participation because students are more excited to take from the salad bar, and actually eat what they took. The district has found that students who grow their own fruits and vegetables consume more produce, resulting in less waste.

In order for a school to participate in the Garden to Cafe Program, the school has to have an established garden with a designated garden coordinator. The first step in receiving certification is for the garden coordinator to attend the Garden to Cafe Training, which is held three times a year. After the training, the garden coordinator fills out the designated Protocol, hosts a site garden inspection and works closely with Food Services. 

There are currently 23 certified school gardens out of about 100 gardens throughout district. For more information and to find out when the next Garden to Café Training is scheduled, please email Amy Garfinkel at agarfinkel@sandi.net.

Since 2010, San Diego Unified has worked closely with the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health to establish a culinary school garden agreement that allows students to harvest their garden-grown produce and serve it as part of the school meal program.

The district’s Garden to Café Protocol helps ensure that school gardens are a safe food source for school cafeterias to serve garden-grown food in the salad bars and in meals. But the program also seeks to give students a deeper understanding of food sources, meal planning and nutrition.

As for the harvest contest, it serves as an engagement tool – and offers bragging rights - for students. 

 

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