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Our approach leverages the powerful influence that educators and a peer environment can have on a child by creating a positive experience for students to explore new foods with their friends during the school day. This opens the door for parents to join in the conversation about nutrition at home and support their child’s development of healthy eating habits.
We build on our classroom based Harvest of the Month (HOTM) activities in the after school setting by offering students the opportunity to cook with their friends. Once a month we provide the 23 after school programs that are part of the Redwood After School Network (RAN) with a recipe featuring the current HOTM item and the ingredients necessary to prepare it at their sites. Later in the month, as part of our Family Meal Market Program, we provide a second, more substantial HOTM recipe and related ingredients to a subset of the 23 after school sites. The students prepare the FMM recipe and offer samples to their families at pick up time. Then, 20 families from each site receive a bag of the ingredients to make the recipe at home. We aim to serve 120-140 families each month.
We are building a network of school nutrition professionals who are valued for their critical role in the nourishment and education of our students. We provide resources, trainings, and one on one support to make sure individuals have the capacity and confidence to prepare high quality meals while meeting the challenges of budget, staffing, and regulatory demands.
One of the areas we are focusing our support is local procurement. In addition to connecting schools to nearby farms and helping schools follow procurement guidelines, we have begun to serve as an aggregator and distributor of local produce for schools. Many of our districts would like to buy from local farmers, but they are small, spread out, and operate independently. It is not cost effective for local farmers to drive long distances to deliver to individual sites. Since we regularly purchase large quantities of local produce for our Harvest of the Month Program, we are able to add on to our orders to purchase extra for interested school districts. We then distribute the produce when we do our HOTM deliveries. Our goal is to scale up this service to expand beyond the items we are featuring in our Harvest of the Month program.
School gardens can play an important role in shaping healthy eating habits among students. We offer technical support to after school coordinators and other educators who use gardens for education and enrichment. We also offer training opportunities when possible.