By Cindy Long, FNS Administrator
One of my favorite activities is to see FNS programs in action. Therefore, as often as I can, I try to visit schools that know how to have fun while feeding kids healthy meals. Recently, I had the chance to visit Rialto Unified School District (RUSD) and learn about their success in doing just that. They just earned USDA’s 2022 Turnip the Beet Gold Award, two years in a row!
My whirlwind day started with a tour of RUSD’s central kitchen. I was greeted enthusiastically by nutrition staff and got to see firsthand where the magic happens. They take pride in making many of their dishes from scratch. Then, we observed school lunch and toured the gardens of Rialto Middle School and Werner Elementary School. The gardens directly support school meals with products like greens and citrus fruit. Afterwards, we were treated to a delightful farm to school activity with a local farmer, Anna Knight of the Old Grove Orange, who provided a fun and educational mini farmer’s market right in the Werner school library. Incidentally, Farmer Anna told us that she is a 5th generation Japanese-American farmer, and she credits farm to school efforts with keeping her small family farm afloat.
Following the nutrition education, we were invited to partake in “A Taste of RUSD” where we had the opportunity to sample some of the delicious school lunch items that we saw earlier being prepared or on school lunch trays, including turkey pozole, habanero chicken wings, and banana bread. The food was so impressive that we met several teachers who were hurrying to the cafeteria just to get a taste. Local dignitaries, including California Senator Ochoa Bogh’s Office, RUSD Board of Education President Stephanie E. Lewis, and RUSD Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtémoc Avila, showed their support for child nutrition programs.
After the festivities, I sat in on a roundtable discussion with students, parents, local PTA members, board of education members, and school district staff, and got a fresh perspective about how good the RUSD child nutrition programs are, and the importance of healthy food for developing children.
The RUSD community exemplifies the commitment to healthy food for kids – a priority of the USDA and the Biden-Harris Administration. What I saw when I was there was how that commitment can produce an entire school community that embraces and supports the notion of serving and teaching kids about healthy foods. Everyone was represented, and it was extraordinary. And this is what it takes to really put kids on a path towards a healthy future.