Bethany Markee cooking gleaned tomatoes in a tilt-skillet purchased with assistance from the Orfalea Foundation's School Food Initiative.

Bethany Markee cooking gleaned tomatoes in a tilt-skillet purchased with assistance from the Orfalea Foundation’s School Food Initiative.

Food Service teams are always on the lookout for ways to deliver better food at lower costs, and Solvang Elementary School Food Service Supervisor Bethany Markee hit a real home run last summer.

Last August, Santa Ynez Valley Fruit & Vegetable Rescue, also known as Veggie Rescue, recovered over 900 pounds of vine ripe organic tomatoes at Classic Organic Farm. Because of a heat wave, tomatoes had been ripening quickly and were too ripe to go to the produce stand, but were perfect for sauce. These local tomatoes were delivered to the Buellton Senior Center, People Helping People, Solvang School, and Santa Ynez Valley High School, all at no charge. 

Using a Tilt-Skillet purchased with a grant from the Orfalea Foundation’s School Food Initiative, Bethany  made 221 quarts of tomato sauce from approximately 400 pounds of tomatoes received from the Veggie Rescue glean, in which she also participated.

The tomato sauce was later used for pizzas and pasta, and Bethany estimates savings of over $700.00 for the school lunch program. The Solvang School is one of the Orfalea Foundation’s School Food Initiative participants, cooking from scratch as much as possible and sourcing local foods.

This is just one example of innovative ways to reduce waste and improve nutrition for children and families in Santa Barbara County. If you haven’t eaten lunch at your school lately, School Food Action encourages you to do so. Many of the schools in Santa Barbara County are way ahead of the rest of the nation in serving delicious, nutritious, economical meals, which are just as good for adults as they are for our kids. And if you’re in Solvang, give Bethany a high five for her initiative and innovation.

Washing just some of the tomatoes gleaned with the help of Veggie Rescue.

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