USDA Farm to School Team Site Visit
School garden at Riverside USD (CA)
Riverside Unified School District in Riverside, California
Thanks to the hard work of district staff and community partners, students at
Riverside Unified School District can now choose to eat lunch from a salad bar
five days a week. On September 16-17, 2010, the USDA Farm to School Team
visited Riverside Unified School District to meet with the school food service
director and staff, teachers, farmers, and community partners to learn about
their Farm to School efforts.
Riverside Unified School District serves the City of Riverside, CA, and is
located approximately 60 miles east of the City of Los Angeles. In school year
2009-2010, the district enrolled 43,000 students, 60 percent of whom were
eligible for free or reduced priced meals. On average, the district serves
32,000 meals per day, using both a large central kitchen and on-site school
kitchen facilities to prepare meals.
The district’s Farm to School efforts started in 2005, with a new food service
director versed in the implementation of Farm to School and the support of a
nearby University. The district’s flagship initiative is the “Farmers’ Market
Salad Bar,” which enables students to choose the salad bar five days a week as a
reimbursable meal and, when available, features fresh local produce. The
initiative has expanded from a salad bar in one school in 2005, to offering a
salad bar as a reimbursable meal in 29 of the district’s 31 elementary schools
Local products are purchased directly from farmers and through their contracted
distributor. In most cases, farmers deliver their product to the central
kitchen, where it is redistributed to school sites throughout the district.
Local items have included apples, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots,
cauliflower, celery, citrus, corn, cucumbers, grapes, kiwi, lettuce melons,
nectarines, onions, peaches, pears, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, garlic and
cilantro. The district estimated spending $400,000 on local produce in the
2009-2010 school year.
Beyond the cafeteria, the students at Riverside Unified School District receive
lessons on agriculture and nutrition in a variety of ways. For example,
students at Emerson Elementary School have garden plots in a one acre community
garden adjacent to the playground, giving them an opportunity to grow and sample
garden fresh produce. And, local farmers visit the classrooms to talk with
students about the work on their farm and the harvest they produce. To better
understand the impact the salad bars have had on students, the district has
participated in a number of evaluations.
Rodney Taylor is the Nutrition Services Director for Riverside Unified School
District, and he shared the following tips for getting started with Farm to
is very important to involve kitchen staff early in the process of change.
community partners—they can be very helpful.
Start at schools that are willing to make changes, and then move to schools
where there might be more resistance.
sure to cut up the fruit and vegetables rather than leaving them whole; kids
are more likely to eat it.