By Benita Gingerella for FoodService Director
During normal times, students at Camden City School District in Camden, N.J., are able to learn about healthy food through the nutrition team’s daily efforts in the cafeteria. With schools shut down due to the pandemic, however, the district has switched gears to bring nutrition education and fresh produce to students’ homes, an vital mission given the district’s location in a food desert.
“We don’t have many stores where families could essentially go to buy a lot of fresh produce items,” says Senior Manager of Nutrition Arlethia Brown.
The district began providing curbside meal service when COVID-19 hit in the spring and has since pivoted to providing weekly fresh produce deliveries to students’ homes through the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and other vendors. Knowing that this may be the first time using certain types of produce for many families, the district is also working to create resources that teach about nutrition while also ensuring families can make the most out of the produce they’re receiving.
The produce bags delivered to students’ homes contain pamphlets with facts and recipe ideas related to what’s being sent home. The nutrition team has also shared tips and tricks for what to do with the produce on social media.
“We’ve just been sharing like the pictures of the items and little tidbits on what to do with [them],” says Brown.
Students also receive nutrition education videos through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in partnership with nonprofit organization FoodCorps and the Jersey Fresh Farm-to-School Program. The videos typically showcase quick recipe demos with whatever local produce is being highlighted that month and also show ways to best use and preserve fresh produce.