USDA Farm to School Team Site Visit
Jefferson County Public Schools in
On May 25-26, 2010,
the USDA Farm to School Team met with Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS)
Nutrition Services Department and their partners to learn, firsthand, about the
District’s Farm to School efforts.
JCPS is a large, urban school district in Louisville,
Kentucky, that enrolls 98,000 students and serves over 61,000 lunches every day.
Approximately 62 percent of the students are eligible for free or
reduced-priced meals. The District’s impressive Nutrition Service Center is a
68,000 square-foot warehouse and central kitchen, which is used to distribute
and prepare meals for the District’s 144 schools. Every school has an
operational kitchen where meals are received from the central kitchen,
assembled, heated and served.
In 2007, JCPS kicked off their local purchasing initiative
by reaching out to an apple producer located approximately 20 miles from the
City of Louisville. They successfully made a single bulk purchase for enough
apples to serve one to each student in all 144 schools. Building on this
initial success, JCPS has increased the variety and volume of local food used in
the school nutrition programs; expanded Farm to School education programs; and
established a number of community and business partnerships.
Food service personnel value the strong working
relationships they have with distributors and local farmers. In addition to an
occasional bulk purchase of apples, the school district contracts with five
local produce distributors to fill regular orders placed by school kitchen
managers. In order to meet JCPS demand for local produce, the distributors
partner with local farmers. To help facilitate this process, the Kentucky
Department of Agriculture organizes an annual Grower-Buyer meeting to give
local farmers, school district personnel, distributors, and other key
stakeholders an opportunity to meet and discuss marketing opportunities.
with purchasing locally grown produce, agriculture and health education is an
important Farm to School component at JCPS.
Currently, there are approximately 70 school gardens in use by students from
kindergarten to grade 12. The garden programs receive grant support and
technical assistance from local nonprofits. The gardens are used for
educational programs, and on a very limited basis, students and teachers grow
cherry tomatoes and a variety of herbs to sample in the classroom. Starting in
the 2011-12 school year, JCPS plans to enlist multiple school gardens to grow
herbs (e.g., basil or rosemary) in order to scale-up production for use in the
school lunch program.
To supplement the
school garden program, JCPS offers students farm-based learning experiences in
partnership with a local nonprofit. Students involved with this program attend
daylong hands-on educational programs at a local farm. The programs support
curriculum standards set by the Kentucky Department of Education and incorporate
several subjects including science, language arts, practical living, social
studies, and math. Grant funds help offset program fees and transportation
costs. Based on lessons learned from initial farm trips, JCPS hopes to expand
this component in the years to come.
Julia Bauscher, the
District’s School Nutrition Services Director, states, “Farm to School doesn’t
have to be an all or nothing thing.” Bauscher’s realization embodies JCPS’
incremental approach to local food and also suggests that a small change, one or
two local products in a handful of schools, is a worthwhile practice. JCPS
staff and partners are committed to increasing access to fresh, healthy food and
helping students better understand where food
comes from. As a result, JCPS’s Farm to School efforts are blossoming
throughout the district.