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Nation’s School Districts Take A Seat At San Diego Unified’s Table

School officials checked out Crawford High’s farm-to-table program

Nation’s School Districts Take A Seat At San Diego Unified’s Table

Food service officials from 30 school districts stopped by Crawford High School to learn more about the farm-to-school program.

Food service officials from 30 school districts from across the country on Thursday stopped by Crawford High School for lunch.

The officials were there to learn about San Diego Unified School District's farm-to-school program.

The Department of Agriculture brought the school food bosses to San Diego for a symposium hosted by the National Food Service Management Institute.

Deborah Kane, from the USDA, said San Diego Unified is making a national splash.

“They’re like ‘Wow!’" Kane said. "(They're) taking home so many great lessons from San Diego."

Stephen O’Brien, a trained chef and the director of food and menu management for New York City’s public schools, was excited to eat the same lunch as Crawford High students.

“I’m looking forward to having some avocados,” O’Brien said. “I’m looking forward to the locally raised antibiotic-free chicken.”

Gary Petill, director of food and nutrition services for San Diego Unified, said the region has an edge when it comes to getting good food.

“I think we certainly have an advantage, in that we have the largest number of local organic farmers in San Diego County,” Petill said. “More than anywhere in the country.”

San Diego Unified has bought more than 1.5 million pounds of locally grown food since the program started in 2010. However, Petill said, food from the school’s garden is also on the menu. And the students love it.

“It's the education in the garden at the school that gets students excited about planting the seed, harvesting their own, and then seeing it in the cafe displayed on the salad bar,” Petill said.

USDA's Kane said a new food culture is transforming the nation as well as schools.

“I’m traveling to school districts all across the country, school districts from rural Maine to urban areas like Chicago and I’m seeing the culture change everywhere I go," Kane said. "It stops you in your tracks. It’s breath taking.”

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