Tour de D.C. School Food

As the D.C. Farm to School Network Director at Arcadia, I love it when school food friends from other districts come to town - it's a great chance to check in with some of my favorite schools and programs here in the District!  Last week, I took Doug Davis, Director of Food Service for Burlington, VT Public Schools and Julia Bauscher, Director of School & Community Nutrition Services in Louisville, KY on a tour of a few model DC school food programs.  Here's what we saw -

It all started with breakfast at CentroNia, a multi-cultural learning center that runs a host of educational programs for the community, including D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School.  Sofia Bustos, CentroNia's lovely Nutritionist, toured us around the colorful building, rooftop playground, and tiny basement kitchen where they produce over 1,000 meals each day from scratch.  We had yogurt, cereal, and fresh fruit for breakfast while Sofia told us about CentroNia's innovative programs that engage parents, teachers, students, and the entire school community in a culture of nutrition and wellness.

Breakfast at D.C. Bilingual - cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit
Sofia's enthusiasm and hospitality were reflected in the awesome nutrition posters, colorful student artwork and friendly staff at the school.  In fact, she was recently appointed Chilean Health Ambassador by the First Lady of Chile, Cecilia Morel. So Sofia is now an Adviser for Chile's national program “Elige Vivir Sano” (Choose to Live Healthy), which is similar to First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign.  Congratulations Sofia!

Sofia Bustos, CentroNia's Nutritionist, here with the First Lady of Chile Cecilia Morel
Our next stop was DC Central Kitchen's new Nutrition Lab - a 6,000 square foot facility that opened about a year ago as a production kitchen for the 5,000 meals DCCK produces each day for schools, shelters, and other social service providers.  DCCK's Local Initiatives and Procurement Coordinator Joelle Johnson led us on a tour, where we saw a giant 100-gallon drum of local apples being blended in to apple sauce, and hundreds of whole-wheat wraps being loaded up with fresh mixed greens and chicken salad. 

DCCK staff making applesauce from local apples!  Take our word for it, it smelled delicious.
Most of the employees at the Nutrition Lab were graduates of DCCK's Culinary Job Training program, which equips ex-offenders and homeless individuals with the skills they need to start fresh in the food service industry.  We also had a great chat with Ed Kwitowski, the Executive Chef for the school food service programs DCCK operates at 7 D.C. Public Schools, about some of the challenges they've faced and lessons they've learned from serving scratch-cooked healthy meals over a thousand low-income schoolchildren each day.

Our last stop - lunch!  We visited E.W. Stokes Public Charter School, where Stokes' Wellness Coordinator Trisha Nakano kindly told us about some of the exciting ways the school integrates health and wellness in to each child's learning experience.  For example, each year she coordinates the Taste of Stokes festival, a fall harvest celebration where students and families celebrate the bounty of their school garden and challenge students to "Think Globally, Act Locally." Trisha joined us for baked tilapia, kale chips (many of which came from Stokes' own school garden!), whole wheat rolls, chilled carrot curry soup, and salads from the salad bar. 

E.W. Stokes' salad bar - it tasted as good as it looked!
It was restaurant-quality food, and the kids were gobbling it up just as fast as we were.  Stokes' Chef Lisa Dobbs joined us - she's the brains behind the delicious recipes and smooth operations of their school meal program, which puts out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and family to-go meals for 320 students each day out of a teeny tiny kitchen.

Doug and I also got a quick peek at the Farm at Walker Jones, where we met with Farm Director Sarah Bernardi and got to see the wonderful things they're doing on about an acre of green space surrounded by downtown Washington, DC.

Many thanks to Sarah, Sofia, Joelle, Ed, Trisha and Lisa (and all of their staff) for the wonderful day!


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