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4J Food Services Is Buying Local

Fresh, local food is a top priority for new in-house student meal program

Last spring, the school board voted not to renew a contract with a food services management company and instead return to self-management. One of the primary goals of this shift to an in-house student meal program is to prepare, serve and cook with more local and fresh ingredients.

The department is working to achieve this goal through partnerships with local farmers from around the state, as well as in Lane County. Some of those local partners include Detering’s Orchards, Norris Farms, Emerald Produce, Brosi Farms, Camas Swale, Johnson Farms and more.

Although it’s a large undertaking, staff say the benefits of the change far outweigh the challenges.

“Ultimately we want single ingredient items in front of our kids,” said Jill Cuadros, 4J’s Nutrition Services Manager. “We want less processed foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms is the best and easiest way to do that — it’s the easiest thing for us to source.”

Cuadros, who is also a trained chef, said that students have really enjoyed the fresh and local foods, too.

“When kids realize their apples are from Detering’s Orchards, which maybe they’ve been to on a field trip, they’re excited,” Cuadros said. “They know where their apple came from.”

Because seasonal changes also play a large role in what foods are available to schools, students have been introduced to fruits and vegetables that they may not have seen before, such as watermelon radishes, Asian pears, heirloom cherry tomatoes and kiwi berries.

“We’re not always offering the same foods, because now our options are more based on the season, so there’s a sort of novelty to certain foods, like the kiwi berries, which students ate up in about two weeks,” Cuadros said. “They’re really liking the variety and learning about new foods.”

Stay tuned for more updates as the district’s transition to local management of school nutrition services progresses. Next month: Beyond the farm fields — Learn how 4J kitchens are serving up locally prepared foods, from fresh-baked scones to whole-grain pizza.

Learn more

4J Nutrition Services News 

Online Menus and Nutrition Information

School Meal Menus (printable PDFs, subject to change)

December Elementary Menu (y en español)
• December Middle School Menu
• December High School Menu

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