Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | December 22, 2007

Organic menu may become a school-meal fixture

ORGANIC fruit and vegetables could become a staple ingredient of children’s school meals following a pioneering West Wales project.

In a far cry from the days of turkey twizzlers, Carmarthenshire Council has recently piloted organic menus and is now investigating making them a permanent fixture of school meals.

This is believed to be the first scheme of its kind in Wales – other school meals services have previously only held one-off organic food events. But any extension of the trial will depend on whether the council can afford to buy organic produce within its existing £6.5m school meals budget.

Organic produce can be up to 63% more expensive as a result of being more labour intensive and having lower yields than that conventionally-produced food.

Primary school children across Carmarthenshire have been eating a special winter dish of home-made organic shepherd’s pie with organic carrots, fresh cabbage, potatoes and gravy.

Funding for the pilot was provided by the Organic Centre Wales’ Rafael scheme.

Council officers said the dish has been a “big hit” with schoolchildren and talks were continuing about the cost of introducing more organic produce into school kitchens. The council is holding discussions with its fruit and vegetable supplier Jones and Davies in Pencader and prices are being sought to see if the move can be fitted in the budgets.

Proposals to work alongside other local authorities to achieve economies of scale will also be investigated. The move to incorporate organic produce in school meals follows a growing recognition of the benefits of organic fruit and vegetables and a survey of Carmarthenshire schoolchildren.

Elin Cullen, the council’s head of resources management, said, “We are looking into the use of organic produce and we were fortunate to obtain some funding for this trial menu. We are constantly looking at ways to improve and develop the school meals service and we are discussing the costs of organic produce with our supplier to see if it is a feasible option.

“Organic produce is more expensive but we could look at collaborating with other authorities to bring the prices down.”

Carmarthenshire has been at the forefront of the drive to improve school meals in Wales, with more fruit and vegetables served daily alongside new healthy menus. Sales have risen by 40% as more pupils opt for nutritionally-balanced lunches.

Carmarthenshire Council currently spends around £180,000 a year on fruit and vegetables, as part of £6.5m worth of contracts commissioned by the catering department. It produces 25,000 meals every day in more than 190 establishments, including schools, residential homes, luncheon clubs, day centres, social activity centres and for meals on wheels.

Councillor Ieuan Jones, Carmarthenshire’s education executive board member, said, “We already try wherever possible to source local produce. It is key to our regeneration of the county to work with local businesses and help them grow.

“The school meals service in Carmarthenshire is already highly acclaimed and I am delighted that so much proactive work is going on to make further improvements.”

Jane Powell, information officer for the Organic Centre Wales, University of Aberystwyth, said, “The main benefits of using organic produce are environmental – there are certain health benefits, but these have not been strongly proven. Organic producers tend to have more bio-diversity and use less fossil fuels. The idea is that the school meals service should be providing benefits for the wider society.”

Wales has the highest percentage of organic land, or land about to become organic – 5.5% – as a proportion of total land in the UK. Some 15% of the 4,639 organic and “in-conversion” producers in the UK are based in Wales.

source: icwales.icnetwork.co.uk 


Responses

  1. Just some news:

    Contact: Laine Latimer, 503-859-2299 or laine@latimergroup.com

    OREGON PUBLIC SCHOOL TO SERVE ORGANIC LUNCHES
    Trillium Charter School in Portland Steps up to serve Organic Lunches

    Trillium Charter School in North Portland has made ground breaking decisions since its conception. Now, another important first, that will impact kids’ health for the rest of their lives.

    Trillium, will begin serving “Organic Fresh Fingers”, a Salem, Oregon based organic food delivery service will provide milk, breakfast and lunches in the 2008-2009 school year. For about the same cost as supersizing a Value Meal at McDonalds, school age children will be eating healthy locally grown organic lunches in a public school setting.

    “We have wanted to have our own food program from the beginning,” said Arianne Newton, Community Development and Garden and Food Director. “Our garden program is strong, and our food program is about teaching healthy eating and sustainable practices, all things we feel are worthy.”

    Organic Fresh Fingers focuses on delivering local organic meals to daycare centers and pre-schools and now public schools. “We are excited for the chance to feed school age children. Nutrition is important, and just because it’s a cafeteria, doesn’t mean food can’t taste good and he healthy for you,” said Evann Remington, CEO of Organic Fresh Fingers. In Oregon, organic farming represents a $52 million annual slice of the agricultural industry.

    “This is a fabulous model,” said Newton. “Because we are a public charter school a lot of our decisions are transferable to regular public schools. Portland is so ripe and ready for healthy decisions when it comes to children. It’s just a matter of time before everyone is doing it.”

    ###

    ABOUT ORGANIC FRESH FINGERS

    Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc. is a one year old Salem based company providing certified organic, lunches and snacks to public charter schools and day-care facilities, frozen microwavable meals sold in retail grocery stores and is available through Spud, a home delivery service.

    All entrees and snacks created at Organic Fresh Fingers meet with the child nutrition guidelines of completely balanced and wholesome meals specifically designed for young children. The meals are fresh vegetarian (where possible, locally produced), are certified organic by the Oregon Tilth, and meets with the USDA Child and Adult Food Program standards and is reimbursable under that program and Organic Fresh Fingers is an Oregon Department of Agriculture Licensed Processor. Nutritional Analysis has been provided by Nutridata Inc. whose analysis results and labels are 100% FDA compliant.

    Organic Fresh Fingers frozen lunches, available in forward thinking supermarkets are served in a recyclable microwavable food tray, the outer sleeve is made from 25% post consumer recycled material adding up to 50% total recycled materials and it is printed in Salem, Oregon with vegetable based ink.

    For more info visit http://www.organicfreshfingers.co


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