Besides being delicious and nutritious, what do tortillas, skim milk, and watermelon all have in common?
The items were part of Nutrition Services’ winning menu for the Texas Department of Agriculture’s 2018 Farm Fresh Challenge, which encourages schools to incorporate local foods into their menus and garden-based learning activities into their curriculum.
“The students learn about growing plants locally and the benefits of choosing local foods,” Nutrition Services Senior Manager Amanda Oceguera said. “The aim of this program is to establish behaviors that create healthy students for their entire lives.”
The goal of the contest was to serve three or more Texas foods representing three unique meal components at least once a week during the month of October. The department was also tasked with providing agricultural education opportunities and sharing these accomplishments on social media.
For the first time last year, the annual contest featured a multiple tier recognition system — Best of the Bunch for first, Sharp Cheddar for second, and Prime Participant for third — to make it easier for school districts to choose their level of participation.
HISD, one of 232 school districts to participate in the contest, was recognized with the Best of the Bunch Award last month.
Throughout October, Nutrition Services worked with Shearn, Gallegos, Bruce, C. Martinez, and Mitchell elementary schools to build or revitalize garden beds on campus in preparation for the Junior Master Gardener curriculum — Learn, Grow, Eat & Go. Community members and volunteers from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Agriculture Education Committee worked together to provide support for the students.
Near the end of October, each school began the curriculum, teaching students plant science, math, scientific method, teamwork, and responsibility. At the end of the 10-week program, the students were eligible to complete a community service project to receive their Junior Master Gardener Certification.
TDA will officially recognize Nutrition Services’ efforts at the annual Business of Numbers and Nutrition Conference in June.