It might surprise some, but even though Oklahoma is in the heart of Midwest, some kids in the city of Tulsa don’t know a great detail about how their food arrives on their dinner plate.
Union’s Child Nutrition Department hopes to open children’s eyes and help them know their food.
“When the popular program featuring Chef Jamie Oliver and his mission of improving school food came out a few years ago, I remember him telling his audience that students did not even know what a potato was, and were shocked to find out that french fries were made from them,” said Lisa Griffin, director of Child Nutrition. “Part of his mission was to help students know where their food comes from and what the food is. I was equally shocked with I heard that even some students at Union did not know about some common foods and their origins, such as a student who did not know that to eat a banana, it needed to be peeled first!”
This realization was the roots of a new program called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” which she hopes will be a monthly promotion that features a different fruit and vegetable each month on the menus.
“Union Child Nutrition is very passionate about using as much local produce and foods as possible in the meals served to students,” Griffin said. “There are many advantages to why we would do this.”
Local foods are more nutritious, better tasting and fresher, she said, adding that purchasing local foods reduces the ‘carbon footprint’ by reducing the transportation distances required to get food from the farm to the table. In addition, she said purchasing local foods pumps more dollars into the state economy and supports Oklahoma farmers.
By relying on local farmers, students receive quality food, are exposed to many new and different kinds of foods, -- and, she said, with the help of their new program, students will learn about where foods come from, hopefully establishing healthy nutrition habits that will last a lifetime.
An information board in each school cafeteria will highlight the farmer who supplies Union its monthly produce, as well as recipes. Child Nutrition also hopes to share recipes online, interesting history and tidbits of information, and nutrition information.
“We will invite the farmers to visit our schools during lunch to talk with students about their produce. Our chef, Callie Fowler, will develop the recipes, and our dietitians, Libby Anderson and Lauren Bradley, will be providing nutrition information, Griffin said. “And, of course, our cafeteria staff will be producing and serving the featured recipes.”