This month the Planting Seeds blog is featuring stories on food security, nutrition, and efforts to reduce food waste. CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork is committed to helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food by connecting consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers.
The “California Thursdays Network,” a statewide program that encourages and facilitates healthy choices for school lunches, is now working with 71 school districts and reaches more than 1.8 million students. It’s a collaboration between the districts and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The program works to improve food offerings by preparing meals using real ingredients sourced from California, including proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. These efforts are coordinated specifically on Thursdays, but they signify a commitment to this program every day during the school year.
On a recent Thursday in the Lodi Unified School District, CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork, a California Thursdays partner, joined undersecretary Jim Houston for an informational tour of the project, featuring its statewide “Collective Action Day.” School district students were served a hearty and fragrant Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli. It was freshly prepared and made with California-grown food, including whole grain pasta and heirloom beans grown at a ranch farmed continuously since 1855 by a California family.
“It’s great to see the level of commitment everyone has taken to make California Thursdays a success,” said Undersecretary Houston. “There is a lot of hard work that goes into scratch cooking, but it is worth the time and effort.”
The California Thursdays project is making a wide-ranging impact that includes school district employees. “It is amazing to be able to trace your food to the source,” said Nick La Mattina a regional supervisor for the Lodi Unified School District. “California has so much wonderful fresh food to offer. Why settle for something that was picked early?”
As for the school children, they enthusiastically devoured their soup and exited the festivities that day nourished, engaged, and excited about their next California Thursdays meal.
Thank you to the Center for Ecoliteracy for its assistance with this blog post.