Why Local? The Food Service Director Perspective

Maureen Nuzzo, Director of Food Services, Old Saybrook Public Schools

 

Maureen Nuzzo manages a smaller school district.

What is your philosophy surrounding local procurement in your district? What and who benefits, from your point of view?

Procuring locally in Old Saybrook Schools Food Services Department is very important to our program.  It is an opportunity to connect with local farmers in surrounding towns and share the fruits their labor with our students in our meal offerings.  Procuring locally allows us to use the cafeteria to teach students about Connecticut agricultural products. Students gain knowledge about local farmers and their products which are grown in their community.  Local sourcing also ensures freshness that cannot always be guaranteed when purchasing from larger distributors.

 

 

 

How do you define local in the district you serve?

I define local as Connecticut Grown.

Why do you use cycle menus and how do they help you with local procurement?

Cycle menus help us ensure compliance with regulations.  Cycle menus help with local procurement by outlining these guidelines and allowing the meal planner to adapt menus as to include local products when available.

How do you organize your cycle menus and why? 

I color code my vegetable subgroups so it is easy to make selections that fall within vegetable subgroups.

Maggie Dreher, Director of Nutrition Services for Avon Public Schools, Canton Public Schools, & Regional School District #10

Maggie Dreher has multiple districts to manage.

What is your philosophy surrounding local procurement in your district? What and who benefits, from your point of view?

I believe we should provide our students with the freshest, tastiest ingredients possible. We should support our local farmers and our community. We all benefit when we are able to purchase locally. The products are the freshest around and the quality is so much better. An apple is not just an apple, but a story – a potential place to connect to the community.

How do you define local in the district you serve?

Local can be in our immediate community, which is best – but if we can purchase from a farm in Connecticut, that is also considered local.

Why do you use cycle menus and how do they help you with local procurement?

By using a cycle menu and working with a local farmer we can plan our menus based on the availability of the produce. We can focus on seasonal recipes. This helps to keep an organized inventory and our food costs down.

How do you organize your cycle menus and why? 

My cycle menus are for the managers and the nurses. It gives advance notice to the managers to help with ordering and inventory. The nurses find it very helpful for students who may be diabetics.

Lonnie Burt, Senior Director of Child Nutrition, Hartford Public Schools

Lonnie & her team manage one of the largest districts in the state.

What is your philosophy surrounding local procurement in your district? What and who benefits, from your point of view?

Purchasing local products is important on so many levels; it has a positive impact on our community and the residents. We encourage others to consider sourcing local foods when possible.

How do you define local in the district you serve?

Our definition of local includes grown and processed within 250 miles of Hartford and/or purchasing food from small businesses to support Hartford businesses and further job creation for Hartford residents.

It is important to define your criteria of what constitutes a local food. For example- is it Connecticut only, within 250 miles, 400 miles, the New England region? Do you want 50% or more of the ingredients to be local, or is a local vendor producing product for your menus within your definition. Are you considering all food categories or only produce when you define local foods? Once you determine what meets your local criteria and definition, conduct a study to determine the percentage of total food dollars being spent on local foods. Ask your vendors to help you identify local foods that you are currently purchasing. By doing this, you can then set goals for incremental increases over a period of time. You can also use this information to communicate with district administration, students, parents, partners, and the community. It may also be useful when writing grants.

Why do you use cycle menus and how do they help you with local procurement?

Cycle menus help us to determine what our needs are annually and monthly. By having a cycle menu we can identify which items can be sourced locally and at what time of year. We can then work with our local suppliers and give them an estimate of usage and when we will need the products.

How do you organize your cycle menus and why?

We use our cycle menu to develop our monthly menus. Our monthly menus are color coded by vendor so the staff will know where products are coming from. We also develop a monthly allergy menu for nurses and parents which lists carbohydrate counts as well as the major allergens.

 

Kate Murphy, Food Service Director, Naugatuck Public Schools

Kate Murphy's district contracts a food service management company to run school meals.

What is your philosophy surrounding local procurement in your district? What and who benefits, from your point of view?

Using local produce is a win-win. It helps our local farms and makes for a smaller carbon footprint. I have spoken with children who don't realize that the produce they eat comes from a farm. They think it comes from the grocery store. They didn't realize it has to be grown on a farm by a farmer and then sent to a grocery store. By using local it helps to be a learning point - to identify that. When using a local farmer's product, we display the name of the farm and a picture of the farmer so students can see that connection. We have the opportunity to teach, even in the cafeteria. 

How do you define local in the district you serve?

In Naugatuck, local is anywhere in CT. We also say "Regional" for items grown in: MA, NY, NH, MA, VT

Why do you use cycle menus and how do they help you with local procurement?

Using cycle menus helps with planning and purchasing from local farms. I like to give as much notice to ensure that I will get local! Planning ahead is important and cycle menus assist with that. They also cut down on waste.