Throughout Santa Barbara County, thousands of students celebrated Food Day on October 24th with creative, delicious, and colorful events, such as green smoothie tastings, art projects, salad bar debuts, lunch contests, visiting chefs, rainbow outfits, and more.
Food Day is a national celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably raised food. Many schools use this opportunity to educate students about the benefits of consuming vegetables, fruits, whole grains, water, and plant-based proteins. This day is also significant because it engages the entire nation in a conversation about our food system and how we can improve it.
Here are some Food Day highlights from Santa Barbara County:
Oak Valley Elementary School in Buellton celebrated Food Day in full force. Students decorated classroom doors with positive, healthy messaging. They rotated through the school’s garden to taste cherry tomatoes with Ranch dressing made from scratch, and to research plant life cycles from various interactive stations. They learned the anatomy of a tomato and its nutritional value from Orfalea Foundation Chef Instructor Janet Stevenson. Parent volunteer Wendy Campbell played an instrumental part in the Oak Valley activities, and summed up the day by saying, “It was magical!”
Oak Valley’s Principal Lisa Maglione modeled healthy behavior with age-appropriate messaging. She invited students and faculty to “Wear a Rainbow, Eat a Rainbow” and all arrived to school in bright, rainbow-colored outfits. She also tells students to have a “Party on their Plate” with colorful fruits and vegetables, and offers “high-fives” to remind them to eat “5 fruits and vegetables” every day. Nutrition education is an important part of the day at Oak Valley Elementary.
Jonata Middle School in Buellton held a school-wide event in their courtyard, where students tasted pomegranates and kiwis, and sampled green smoothies provided by Chef Instructor Janet Stevenson. Students waited patiently to taste the curiously bright green smoothie, made from bananas, spinach, oranges, fresh lemon juice and ice. Students also took part in an Apple Crunch, a Food Day activity that gathers people to crunch into apples at the same time. The tradition originated in the Big Apple (New York City) and this year over 1 million people across the nation crunched into apples to recognize Food Day. Deborah Mullin is the parent volunteer who helped organize these successful events.
Santa Maria-Bonita Food Service serves meals to over 15,000 students every school day. On Food Day, the District served bean burritos to highlight plant-based proteins. The menu featured a Build-Your-Own Bean Burrito Bar with scratch-cooked pinto beans, whole grain tortillas, shredded cheese, salsa, lettuce, jalapenos, corn, oranges, cucumbers, and Ranch dressing made from scratch. Many students received Food Day stickers for “decorating” their burritos and eating a diversity of foods.
The Santa Barbra Unified School District’s Food Service team prepared veggie quesadillas as a plant-based entrée, complete with homemade salsa and tender vegetables. Monroe Elementary paired the burritos with a healthy food tasting to highlight seasonal snack options. The School Food Initiative’s Chef Instructor Claud Mann offered samples of Ojai persimmons, and talked with students about how to include fruits and vegetables into their daily meals.
Also in Santa Barbara at Washington Elementary, sixth graders in Jackie Bluestein’s class created posters with healthy messaging and positive slogans, such as “You Are What You Eat.” Posters depicted superhero cartoon fruits, farmer’s market scenes, and other colorful images. Ms. Bluestein will hang these posters in the cafeteria to encourage peer-mentoring to younger students.
Los Olivos School held a friendly competition to teach students about Food Day. Principal Baublits held a “Healthy Lunch Contest” and asked students to leave junk food at home, and bring a lunch with fruits, vegetables, and other healthy choices. The contest took place during recess, which is strategically scheduled just before lunch, so that students can work up an appetite before they eat. Principal Baublits instructed students to drop off their lunch boxes, with lids open, in the dining area before recess, where the judges inspected lunches. When students returned from recess, they found one or two raffle tickets in their lunch box, depending on the healthiness of its contents. After lunch, Principal Baublits drew raffle tickets from a box, and awarded prizes to the healthiest lunches. This festive Food Day contest encouraged students to examine their daily lunch habits.
In Goleta, Food Day is every day with Food Service Director Sharon Baird at the helm. Common sights include salad bars, healthy breakfasts, and scratch-cooked meals in all Goleta cafeterias. Recently, Sharon teamed up with Garden Education Manager Mike Vergeer and made salsa with tomatillos grown in one of the school gardens. On Food Day, Goleta Union served scratch cooked spice-rubbed roasted chicken as their entrée.
On Food Day, culinary students at Dos Pueblos High School offered quinoa burgers as one of their menu items at the Charger Inn which serves faculty, staff and administrators.
At McKenzie Junior High School in Guadalupe, students read the official “Food Day Newspaper” during Breakfast in the Classroom, including the article “Recipes Every Kid Should Know.” Several teachers used this newspaper as a resource for a writing assignment. In the cafeteria, the menu featured Pork Posole with cabbage and lemon wedges, and a diverse salad bar with green salad, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and Ranch dressing made from scratch. Students learned about hominy (one of the main ingredients in Posole) from a cafeteria display created by the Food Service Staff.
Blochman School District joined the celebrations by inaugurating a new salad bar in the cafeteria. Students built their own baked potato masterpieces with homemade chili, cheese, steamed broccoli, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, celery, and cauliflower. To accompany this scratch-cooked meal, Blochman students read “Food Day Newspapers” and “Food Day Nutrition Tool Kits.”
Lompoc Unified School District featured a scratch-cooked meal: oven roasted chicken, roasted potato wedges, and salad bar with Ranch dressing made from scratch. Hapgood Elementary also read the “Food Day Nutrition Tool Kits” during Breakfast in the Classroom.
Solvang Elementary’s Viking Café served a hummus salad with veggie pizza for Food Day. This healthy menu comes from Chef Bethany Markee who recently won a Golden Carrot award for her healthy, organic, and scratch cooked meals. The Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine bestows only five “Golden Carrots” per year and recognizes “exceptional innovation and leadership in promoting child health and nutrition through school food service” (from the Healthy Carrot Award). Go Bethany!
Peabody Charter School routinely hosts chefs to inspire children to think about the food they eat. This Food Day, Peabody hosted Celebrity Chef Nathan Lyon, author and co-host of the PBS show “Growing a Greener World.” Chef Lyon made fresh gazpacho for students, spoke with students about healthy eating, and expressed the importance of growing food in a garden. He celebrated the success of the Million Tomato Compost Campaign, which challenged schools and community gardens across the nation to produce over one million tomatoes. Harvest Blend Compost helped make this event possible by collecting the school’s food waste, composting it, and returning it to the school garden to help grow more vegetables. School Principal Demian Barnett and Peabody Executive Chef Laurel Lyle are two big advocates of scratch-cooked food, and help shape the lunch culture at Peabody Charter School.
The Orfalea Foundation would like to thank all participants for their efforts. To learn more about Food Day, visit the Food Day website at www.foodday.org, or contact your local school and offer to host a fruit or vegetable tasting on Food Day next year.