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Citrus tasting Thursday at 25 Nevada County schools

Submitted to The Union


What: CitrusTasting with fruit from Sunset Ridge Fine Fruits (certified organic, from Newcastle)

When: Thursday during lunch at each school

Where: 25 Nevada County schools Who: 7,000 students in Nevada County

Why: to give students an opportunity to try new local, seasonal, organic, fresh fruit. 19 of the 25 schools conducting tastings will also have the citrus included in their school lunch meal that day. Note: schools served by GVSD Child Nutrition Services and NJUHSD will have the fruit served in their school lunch. This excludes Forest Charter, Grizzly Hill, Mount St. Mary’s, NCSA, Twin Ridges, and YRCS.

This Thursday, students at 25 Nevada County schools will taste test two citrus varieties as part of the “California Thursdays” healthy eating program.

Sierra Harvest and student volunteers will taste test “Cara Cara” and “Blood Orange” citrus varieties.

The fruit being sampled is sourced from Greg Lewis of Sunset Ridge Fine Fruits, a certified organic farm in Newcastle.

After the 7,000 students sample the two varieties, they will be able to vote on their favorite kind.

Schools with lunch programs served by Grass Valley School District Child Nutrition Services and Nevada Joint Union High School District — 19 schools in total — will also have the citrus varieties included in their school lunch.

Growing model for state, nation

The “California Thursdays” program is predicated on the simple logic that all California children will benefit from eating fresh locally grown food. The program’s organizer, the Center for Ecoliteracy, realized that freshly cooked meals made with local ingredients are more likely to appeal to students and can have major benefits. This theory was proven in the first year of the program, when districts reported a 13 percent increase in school lunch participation on days featuring kid-approved California Thursdays meals.

“Whenever food service staff prepare fresh locally grown food with these recipes, children devour it,” says Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy. “That alone is a victory. Properly nourished children are healthy and ready to learn.”

Building on student and staff support, California Thursdays has grown at a rapid clip. What started as a pilot program with 15 school districts in October 2014 has expanded to 42, then 58 and now 71 districts in 28 counties statewide. Collectively, the California Thursdays Network represents 2,923 schools, an enrollment of 1.85 million and thousands of staff who serve over 309 million meals a year.

“California Thursdays is a great first step in celebrating all that California agriculture has to offer,” says California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “It brings awareness to the fresh, wholesome and seasonally appropriate bounty of our great state. If we feed our children good healthy food, if we connect them back to the places, the people and the practices that it came from, I think we’re going to have great decision makers in our future.”

Rewarding local tastes, local innovations

Each district tailors their menu options to their students’ preferences, their school site capacities and the availability of fresh ingredients. “We have a peer-to-peer network that allows talented food service directors to share recommendations for recipes and vendors, as well as solutions to the challenges they encounter,” says Jennifer Gerrard, California Thursdays program director and a former food service director herself. “The level of commitment and innovation is truly inspiring. It’s part of what makes our state and this program so special.”

For more information about Sierra Harvest, visit http://www.SierraHarvest.org. For more information about the California Thursdays program and to see the interactive state map of the Network, visit http://www.CaliforniaFoodForCaliforniaKids.org/california-thursdays.


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