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The chicken dance, and other things I loved at the School Food FOCUS conference.

Last week, I participated in the national gathering of School Food FOCUS. The gathering was a chance for some of the largest school districts in the country to get together to learn and share the work they’re doing to procure more healthful, locally sourced, and sustainably produced food for school meals. Highlights of the trip for me included:

  • Doing the Chicken Dance during the welcome address.
  • Visiting a San Francisco elementary school where they are trying to do away with lunch lines so kids have more time to eat.
  • Cooking chicken enchiladas with the school nutrition director of Minneapolis Public Schools and a FoodCorps Fellow from Iowa.
  • Hearing how Denver Public Schools contracts with a farmer to grow on unused school district-owned land. The School Nutrition Department buys seeds and plants, the farmer grows it (organically!), and harvested food goes straight to the district’s central warehouse. No need to buy it because the school system already owns it, and only has to pay for the farmer’s labor!
  • Learning about new tools and ways for school districts to evaluate their farm to school programs. (Blog about that coming soon!)
  • Learning ways schools can purchase “cosmetically imperfect seconds” from farms for school meals. Bent carrots, branchy broccoli, and 10 inch-long zucchini might not make it to a grocery store, but cut them up and put them on a salad bar and no one knows the difference. (Blog about that coming soon, too!)
  • This song.

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