Sonoma Valley Unified School District Nutrition Services
With an Education Foundation supporting gardens in every school, forward thinking administrators, and a food service director that believes all kids should have access to free fruit Sonoma Valley Unified School District is enhancing wellness for their students.
Under the direction of Food Service Program Manager Donna Luzzi, Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s Food Service (SVUSDFS) serves approximately 1,215 breakfasts and 2,100 lunches per day. The district is made up of 4,310 students in eight schools. The five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school all have garden programs. Five of the schools have populations where 50% of their students are eligible for free and reduced priced meals. 57% of the total population is eligible for free and reduced priced meals.
Food Service Operations
The total food service budget is $1,432,000 of which about 4% of the total budget is allocated to purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. Each school site has functional kitchens and food is prepared at the school sites. Menu planning is done one month in advance and uses an enhanced food-based menu planning system which varies by grade level. Offer vs. serve is utilized. Two of the eight schools have salad/produce bars with plans to expand. Packaged salads are offered in both the middle schools and high school.
Donna has a great staff who understand their student’s preferences and adjust appropriately. At each elementary school fruit baskets offer free fruit to all students, this is done because Donna values this. The school sites say it is very popular with their students.
Sourcing and Buying Practices
One hundred percent of SVUSDFS Produce comes from a nearby produce distributor in Santa Rosa. Entitlement is used primarily to purchase:
Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables
Grains and pasta
Meats and poultry
SVUSDFS does not order through DOD Fresh.
Milk products come via the local dairy Clover-Stornetta and one third of the milk purchased is organic. Local bakeries are also contracted to provide bagels and other breads.
Fresh produce is offered throughout the year and includes: apples, kiwi, bananas, oranges, grapes, pears, plum, watermelon, strawberries, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, bell peppers, and spinach.
Minimally processed or pre-cut produce ordered includes: salad mix, carrotinis, broccoli, spring mix, romaine leaves, jicama sticks, carrot sticks, and cauliflower.
Production and Serving
All food is prepared or heated or assembled in each school kitchen. Production systems are defined as conventional and speed scratch. When cooking vegetables, steaming is the preferred method. Each kitchen site receives, stores, and preps their own produce and for the most part there is adequate space to prepare fruits and vegetables. Donna mentions that increased cold storage would be beneficial at most sites. Additionally salad/produce bars are only situated in two of the eight sites, but there are plans for more sites to receive salad bars.
Donna perceives her students preference for fruits and vegetables in the following order: 1- fresh, 2- canned, and lastly frozen.
Promotion and Marketing
SVUSDFS uses Harvest of the Month promotional materials on menus, school newsletters, and at back to school nights. Elementary grades receive Harvest of the Month tasting kits that are created by Donna herself. These kits are distributed to school sites with class sets of fruit, cutting board, and knife. Harvest of the Month literature is included for the teacher as well. The fruit being sampled in the classroom is offered in the cafeteria as well.
SVUSDFS has conducted surveys on preferences of menu items and has offered taste tests before serving new items. These efforts have had positive effects as food service staff have noted that kids are more receptive to new fruits after Harvest of the Month tastings in the classroom.
Farm to School and School Gardens
SVUSDFS does not specifically market or promote a Farm to School program. All produce is purchased through one distributor who does purchase from California but there is no defined region for local purchasing.
Where SVUSDFS stands apart from other districts in the state is the number and quality of their school garden programs. Every school in the district has a school garden. With the support of the Education Foundation and community donors the district has a district wide school garden program director to support school garden efforts and paid stipends for school site coordinators. Plans are to integrate these gardens into secondary grade culinary arts programs, school grounds landscaping plant production, and cut flower business serving local restaurants.
With strong community support of school gardens, a progressive and supportive district administration, and a Food Service Program Manager who makes it possible to offer free fruit and Harvest of the Month tasting baskets in her schools Sonoma Valley Unified School District Food Service is serving up elements that contribute to student wellness.