Why not buy from local farmers to produce school lunches?
That’s the simple idea behind “California Thursdays,” a new statewide program in which Natomas Unified is committing itself, initially once a month, to serve cafeteria lunches made from fresh produce or foods produced in California, with an eye toward buying from Sacramento-area farms.
“It’s a win-win-win-win situation,” said Karen Brown of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a Berkeley nonprofit group that is spearheading “California Thursdays” in 42 school districts statewide. Kids get fresher foods, farmers get new sales, California’s economy gains, and environmental benefits accrue from less packaging and transport of school cafeteria foods, she said.
“It’s better food and the kids react to it,” said Vince Caguin, NUSD Nutrition Services coordinator. “They can tell it’s a lot better quality and it will increase their participation (in school meals).”
Mister Jones, 16, gave the idea a thumbs-up Thursday at an Inderkum High School kickoff event in which lunch options included chicken apple sausages from Gilroy, cheese and green chili tamales from Mira Loma, golden kiwis from Marysville, lettuce from West Sacramento, and a salad bar with fresh carrots, tomatoes and other produce from Salinas Valley.
“It brings more fresh stuff to the school,” said Jones, a junior.
“If they keep serving this, it would be cool, I’d be out here (for it),” added Jaelin Madison, 16.
Participants in Thursday's kickoff included Vierra Farms of West Sacramento, Pacific Star Gardens of Woodland, and a Marysville grower, packer and marketer, Wild River Marketing.
Manpreet Singh, a member of Inderkum’s Culinary Club, said that California Thursdays can introduce teenagers to fresh California crops – like golden kiwis – that they’ve never tasted.
“Many of these kids don’t eat this stuff at home, so eating it here can impact their regular diet,” he said.