Jamestown School District in Jamestown, Rhode Island
On June 10–11, 2010 the USDA Farm to School Team visited Jamestown School District (JSD) to learn about their ongoing Farm to School efforts. JSD serves the town of Jamestown, which is a small island in the Narragansett Bay on the Atlantic coast of Rhode Island. In the 2009-10 school year, the district enrolled approximately 500 students (K-8) at two schools, both with fully-equipped kitchens, and served approximately 200 meals per day. The school food service operations are managed by a food service management company.
With the encouragement from a Rhode Island based nonprofit organization, Farm to School activities started in JSD in 2003. In 2008, the district contracted with a food service management company who has worked with the district to continue the Farm to School efforts. In the beginning, the district served local apples and potatoes, and now has expanded to include more products and an annual “all local lunch day,” which has been popular with students, staff and the community.
The current percentage of local products purchased is small, but the goal is to increase local purchases to about 5 percent of the total food budget. Local products are used as components of hot meals and as salad bar items and include apples, potatoes, pears, carrots, strawberries, asparagus, blueberries, corn, cucumber, onions, peaches, bell peppers, spinach, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, and basil.
Education is also an important part of Farm to School at JSD. For example, students plant, cultivate, and harvest crops at a nearby community farm. The district also incorporates Farm to School related curriculum into the classroom, e.g., science and math lessons related to farming, a course on the history and preservation of farming on the island, and Spanish language classes that translate school lunch menus.
Marketing strategies are also in place at JSD. For example, with help from their nonprofit partners, when students purchase a lunch with Rhode Island grown products, they receive two “farmer trading cards” to exchange with friends. These cards have been very popular with the students and are also handed out during nutrition education activities.
Solange Morrissette, General Manager for the management company at JSD, is proud of the accomplishments made in the district and offers several tips for schools just starting Farm to School activities. They include:
- Build flexibility into menus by listing “seasonal vegetable” instead of a specific item so you are able to serve the vegetables that are in season at that time.
- Engage students and the community to be a part of the Farm to School efforts. For example, have a corn shucking party for local corn that will be used in the lunch service.
- Sponsor focus groups with students to get feedback and allow them to vote on possible preparations of local foods (calling them the “Board of Directors” has been especially effective).
- Provide a “veggie and fruit bar” that offers three or four choices daily (with at least one local item, when possible) to encourage children to try new items.