Ashland School District students started the new school year with delicious, organic, locally grown peaches from Valley View Orchard, thanks to the new district Interim Nutrition Services Supervisor Christina Lehman.
The District was awarded over $10,000 by the Oregon Department of Education in 2017 to purchase Oregon grown and produced food, but ended up only spending $250. Under the leadership of the new nutrition services director Christina Lehman, things are changing, with cases of locally grown fruit arriving every week, and more fruits and vegetables on the way.
"We are thrilled to see Ashland School District working with local producers like Valley View Orchard, Fry Family Farm, Naumes and others," Rogue Valley Farm to School Executive Director Sheila Carder said. "It has been clear that is what Ashland parents want to see served to their children. Having a nutrition director who is committed like Christina Lehman is a game changer."
Rogue Valley Farm to School has been working with the entire district for nearly a decade, providing Tasting Tables, Farm Field Trips and other programs to connect children to healthier food and local farms. Our partnership with Walker Elementary School is in its third year, supported by the PTO, City of Ashland, Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District and originally launched with support from Jackson Care Connect.
Under the new leadership of Christina Lehman, Ashland School District purchased cases of organic peaches every week from Valley View Orchard throughout the beginning of the school year. With the arrival of fall, the District has switched to apples and pears. Valley View Orchard is one of three GAP certified producers in the valley selling to schools, including Fry Family Farm and Naumes. Both Fry Family Farm and Valley View are also certified organic.
This week, Lehman, announced a partnership with Dauenhauer Cattle LLC. Dauenhauer Cattle is located here in Ashland and is owned by Zack Dauenhauer and his father who are both Ashland School District alum. School cafeteria menus will soon feature some scratch cooking dishes like tacos, meatloaf, lasagna, and chili - all made with locally sourced, grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free beef
"Very few children are eating in our cafeterias," said Lehman. "My goal is to double student participation this year so we don't lose the program." Sourcing locally, providing fresh produce and local beef is a way of increasing student participation, according to Lehman.
"What we see in other schools is that when children are given healthy, fresh delicious lunches, they are better able to focus and learn," said Carder. "We are happy for the opportunity to partner with Ashland School District in meeting their goals to improve school lunches and increase student participation. When done well, a thriving school lunch program can ensure all children receive healthy, fresh lunches. Sourcing locally is an important step in providing that for the children and families of Ashland. Encouraging more students and parents to participate in the program is also critical. It's a trust building exercise -- the district needs the parents to create a thriving lunch program, and the parents need the district to provide the healthy, nourishing lunches they want their children eating. Christina is helping to make that happen."