But that’s not how the officials in Baltimore, Md., like to do things. Working to provide the healthiest meals possible, the city’s school cafeteriaswhen peaches are neededturn first to locally grown fruit plucked fresh from a tree.
Few school systems in the nation are doing more to improve school meals than the Baltimore City Public Schools, and urban school leaders learned more about the district’s exiting initiatives Saturday at an Issues Forum of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE). The session was an early bird meeting for representatives who will attend the Federal Relations Network Conference that starts Sunday.
The school system’s award-winning effort began several years ago with a far-ranging policy discussion launched by the school board about providing more nutritious school meals and combating childhood obesity, city school board member George VanHook Sr. told forum attendees.
Adopting a good policy is a crucial, but its ultimate success depends on the energy put into its implementation, VanHook said. And Baltimore was lucky to find just the man to oversee the district’s food and nutrition program: Anthony Geraci, a former chef and food service consultant who had successfully revitalized a New Hampshire district’s food services program.
In Baltimore, Geraci has worked to improve the quality of school meals that students used to describe as “nasty.” He’s emphasized the purchase of Maryland-grown produce, and is building a central kitchen for the school system where food-service personnel will prepare fresh meals from scratch.
Also on his agenda has been involving students in meal planning, operating a 33-acre farm so students can learn where food comes from, and starting a Great Kids Café to introduce students to careers in the food industry, he told urban school leaders.
Most important, however, is putting healthy food in front of students, particularly those living in an urban environment, Geraci said. Too many are not eating healthy meals at schoolor at home.
“It’s not that our children aren’t willing to eat good, fresh food, it’s that they don’t have access to good, fresh food,” he said. “Many of our kids are growing up in food deserts.’”
Del Stover, Senior Editor, Publications