For years, Sarasota County has been at the forefront of local produce initiatives for cafeteria food. Across the county, 22 percent of produce used in cafeteria meals comes from local farms in the Sarasota area, and around Florida, and Pine View is no different.
“Sarasota County has been a pioneer in this,” Candice Hunsucker, Pine View’s Food Service Manager, said. “The state of Florida has done their best, and we are mandated by certain things from the federal government, but even before they were mandated Sarasota County worked with local farmers.” Several products, including lettuce and potatoes, come from local farms, while milk and juice come from M&B products, a company based out of Tampa.
Cafeteria menus include information about which products were grown in-state: the Farm 2 School (F2S) logo next to an item on the menu indicated that the ingredients in that dish came from a local farm. Items include green beans, squash, oranges, grape tomatoes, cabbage and more. The menu also specifies that milk and eggs are bought locally.
In addition to working with farms, Sarasota County has also encouraged schools to work with community gardens run by teachers and students. Although Pine View’s Community Garden is not currently running, things have started to be laid out for the upcoming season, and Hunsucker is excited at the possibility to collaborate with the garden again. “In the past, we’ve had beautiful kale, and lettuces, and things like that,” she said.
Other initiatives to promote local in the cafeteria include Fresh From Florida day, a day where all food served in the cafeteria came directly from within the state. Hunsucker said, “Everything on the menu was grown in Florida: blueberries, hamburgers from a company called Miami Beef, everything on the menu came from here.” Hopefully the event will occur again in March of this year. The cafeteria also recently celebrated National Cucumber Day with Crunch Day in which they promoted dishes with locally grown cucumbers.
The initiatives, although encouraged by the state, began in Sarasota County before they were mandated; Sarasota has been, and continues to, promote a relationship between local agricultural and students, who benefit from the healthy options and community involvement.