Last week, representatives from the United Fresh Start Foundation joined with the Urban School Food Alliance and French Dignitaries to celebrate Fresh Attitude Week in the United States. The Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of the largest U.S. school districts including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orange County in Orlando, celebrated Fresh Attitude Week by highlighting a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals and by hosting farm to school and other nutrition education activities, throughout the week of May 9-13.
The United Fresh Start Foundation was invited to participate in this year’s celebration, helping to arrange events in Chicago and New York City, and to promote Fresh Attitude Week to other U.S. schools.
“We were so pleased to have United Fresh join us in promoting Fresh Attitude Week this year,” said Stephen O’Brien, Secretary for the Urban School Food Alliance and Director of Food and Menu Management for NYC School at the New York City Department of Education. “I know all members of the Urban School Food Alliance are looking forward to attending this year’s United Fresh convention, where we hope to see new and creative fruit and veggie products for our programs, as well as get ideas on how to ramp up Fresh Attitude Week in our schools next year.”
In Chicago, the Foundation worked with Strube Celery & Vegetable Company and JAB Produce to arrange a tour of the Chicago Terminal Produce Market for the Chicago Public Schools’ foodservice team and the French delegation. United Fresh also helped organize the educational program, which included speakers from several produce companies that supply fresh fruits and veggies for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), both for their meal programs and the nearly 200 CPS schools that participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable “School Snack” Program (FFVP).
In New York City, United Fresh President & CEO, Tom Stenzel joined school district leaders as judge for NYC School Food “Super Chef”, an event where school cafeteria chefs throughout the five borough’s competed to develop a healthy and tasty entree that complies with USDA school lunch nutrition standards. The two winning dishes Chicken Enchiladas with Pico de Gallo and Black Beans, and Chicken Souvlaki with Cilantro Tzatziki Sauce, will appear on school menus next year. The winning chefs Yolanda Vendrell, Cook in Charge, and Antonia Fernandez, Sous Chef are both from the Bronx. As their prize, they won a trip to San Antonio, courtesy of the district, and Bruno Dupont, President of Interfel announced the winners would receive a trip to France.
“This competition was fantastic. The school chefs were inspired to creative unique healthy dishes, all of which highlighted fresh produce. I would love to be figure out a way to bring this concept to more school districts across the country,” said Stenzel. “The kids in New York City are lucky to have such dedicated foodservice staff who are developing tasty recipes that get kids excited about dishes that include fresh fruits and veggies.”
While in New York, Stenzel also spoke with NYC School Food leaders and the French Delegation about the current child obesity crisis in the United States and the work of the United Fresh is doing to increase children’s access and consumption of fresh produce at school and beyond.
Fresh Attitude Week was initially created by Interfel, the French organization also known as The Inter-Branch Association of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, as a way to introduce French children to fresh produce, help them understand where their food is grown and how it gets from the farm to their plate, as well as introducing them to the country’s culinary heritage which celebrates eating freshly prepared foods.
Fresh Attitude Week has been a mainstay of French classrooms for over ten years, and two years ago was implemented in Italy, as well. This is the second year that the Urban School Food Alliance has celebrated Fresh Attitude Week in U.S. schools, working with the French Department of Agriculture and Interfel.
The United Fresh Start Foundation is committed to increasing children’s access to fresh fruits and veggies in schools and beyond, and looks forward to collaborating with the Urban School Food Alliance and French partners to continue to celebrating Fresh Attitude Week in U.S. schools in future years, inspiring other schools across the country to do the same.
The Urban School Food Alliance will join more than 50 other school nutrition directors June 21 and 22 in Chicago at United Fresh 2016 for “The Produce Forum for School Success”. Hosted by the United Fresh Start Foundation, “The Produce Forum for School Success” brings K-12 school foodservice directors from the nation’s largest and most influential school districts to the United Fresh convention to meet produce industry leaders, share best practices with school foodservice colleagues, interact with USDA child nutrition officials, and participate in education sessions focused on serving fresh produce in schools. School nutrition directors also get to attend “The Fresh Festival for School Foodservice”, a reception at United Fresh 2016 highlighting new and innovative produce items ideal for school meals and snacks.