Colorado Proud School Meal Day 2020

Colorado Proud School Meal Day 2020
Posted on 09/18/2020
The Tradition Continues: Colorado Proud School Meal Day 2020

The definition of health in the COVID-19 era often refers to safety mitigation measures like wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, handwashing, and other areas focused on physical hygiene. However, Douglas County School District (DCSD) Nutrition Services keeps another component of health in mind—nutritious, fresh, and locally-sourced food.

As part of Colorado Proud School Meal Day, DCSD Nutrition Services partnered directly with a local farm to serve fresh produce on Wednesday, September 16, and Thursday, September 17, at multiple elementary schools throughout Douglas County. DCSD started celebrating Colorado Proud School Meal Day in 2013, with each year morphing into a bigger and bigger celebration. In 2019, Sand Creek Elementary hosted a locally-sourced farmers market, complete with live green chile roasting. But in the year of COVID-19, the celebration looked different.

2019 Colorado Proud School Meal Day at Sand Creek Elementary
“We can’t do the big event we’ve normally done,” says Amy Faricy, the Manager of Menu Services at DCSD Nutrition Services. “But it is still important to let the kids know about the importance of local products and the foods Colorado has to offer.”

According to the Colorado Department of Education, local foods in school meals help encourage healthy eating habits and teach children about the importance of eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Connecting schools with local suppliers further helps ensure that kids get the proper nutrition they need to excel.
One local supplier is the family-owned and operated Hoffman Farms in Weld County. Though they have partnered with other school districts, 2020 is the first time Hoffman Farms has worked directly with DCSD.

“It felt good to work directly with Hoffman Farms,” commented Faricy. “The produce was literally fresh from the farm! They truly picked everything the day before delivery.”

During the week of September 7, 2020, Hoffman Farms delivered an estimated 2,000 pounds of red and yellow watermelon, 400 pounds of cherry tomatoes, and 1,500 pounds of fingerling potatoes to the DCSD Nutrition Services headquarters in Castle Rock. From there, the produce made it to the elementary school kitchens where it was cleaned and prepared for serving.

Like other schools, the kitchen staff at Cougar Run Elementary in Highlands Ranch were excited about the fresh produce.

“I’m a big supporter personally of local produce and local foods,” says Amanda Teirelbar, Kitchen Manager at Cougar Run Elementary. “To have DCSD and Nutrition Services support something I already value, that’s what makes this celebration important to me.”

2020 Colorado Proud School Meal Day at Cougar Run Elementary
Even with the excitement, Teirelbar, and Kitchen Assistants Jeffrey Jones and Eduardo Ribeiro made adjustments to ensure they served food safely. Social distancing stickers marked the floor of the kitchen line. Biodegradable disposable trays replaced washable plastic trays, and every food item was individually wrapped. Each change strove to decrease the chances of staff and other students directly touching the food.

Despite these changes in serving, one thing that didn’t change was the smiles and fun interactions between the kitchen staff and the students.

Which fresh produce from Hoffman Farms was the favorite?

“The kids absolutely love the watermelon. They want more of it,” Teirelbar laughed. “I wish we could have it every day.”

2020 Colorado Proud School Meal Day at Cougar Run Elementary
Colorado Proud School Meal Day isn’t the only time DCSD elementary students can taste local foods in their school cafeteria.

“We’ll continue to bring in local produce and local products as we can,” says Faricy. “Just because we’re in this situation [with COVID-19] doesn’t mean we’re going to stop that push.”

Local produce varies by seasons, with the Fall and Spring months providing more fresh and local offerings. Year-round, DCSD Nutrition Services sources green chile sauce, tortillas, and food items from local producers. Faricy is available for questions about sourcing at [email protected].

By continuing the tradition of Colorado Proud School Meal Day, DCSD Nutrition Services has made it clear that even a global pandemic won’t stop them from offering local, fresh, and healthy food options for students.
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