Would you like savory or sweet? This was the question posed to over 400 Nevada Union High School students as they moved through the school lunch line on January 28th. Savory or sweet referred to the locally grown, organic sweet potato dishes prepared from scratch by Theresa Ruiz, Director of NJUHSD Nutrition Services, and her staff.
Many students at first questioned the orange tuber, saying, “No thanks, I don’t like sweet potatoes.” Then with the help of Sierra Harvest who was hosting the taste test, the students were informed that these sweet potatoes were local and organic and specially prepared for them fresh that morning. Some students still said, “No thanks”, but many upon hearing of the fresh, local, organic component, changed their tune and said, “Sure, I’ll try it”.
The sweet potatoes were grown and harvested at Riverhill Farm, less than 8 miles from the high school. Two hours later, Jo McProud, owner and farmer at Riverhill Farm, sat down to meet with Theresa and other local farmers to discuss the possibility of supplying the high school district with fresh, local food for this school year. Fresh, local food purchases have accounted for approximately 10% of the produce purchases this year already. Two years ago, that number was .02%.
Sierra Harvest is committed to hosting monthly tastings of fresh, organic, local foods throughout the schools in the district. “It’s our mission to educate, inspire and connect families to fresh, local foods and this is such a tangible way for kids to experience our mission one taste bud at a time” shared Aimee Retzler, Co-Director of Sierra Harvest.
Lauren Valentino, Sierra Harvest’s Food Corps Service Member helped prep Riverhill’s sweet potatoes the day before. Up to her elbows in sweet potatoes she shared, “It took an hour to peel the small ones but it was well worth it to see kids getting access to nutrient dense foods in their school meal this Thursday. It appears from the photo that the sweet version with pineapple and dried cranberries won the hearts, minds and appetites of the students. I’m already looking forward to the possibilities for what fresh, local produce we can dig up in February for the kids”.