January 21, 2015 | AJ Hughes
A Riverside Unified School District student holds up an apple which he is about to eat. Through the efforts of Rodney Taylor and others, students in the Riverside Unified School District are actively encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables. (photo courtesy of Rodney Taylor/Riverside Unified School District)
In the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) in Southern California, students enjoy access to locally-sourced salad bars and experiential learning opportunities in agriculture and nutrition.
Much of this success has been spearheaded by Rodney Taylor, a noted farm-to-school expert and Director of Nutrition Services for Riverside Unified School District (RUSD).
In 1997, Taylor led a similar effort in the Malibu and Santa Monica school districts. But while those areas are known for their affluence, Riverside has more economic challenges. So when Taylor wanted to increase healthy food options for public school students in Riverside, there was no shortage of doubters.
Taylor did not see why healthy eating in public schools should be difficult anywhere. His goal is and always has been a simple one: “To get kids to consume their fruits and vegetables.” Through achieving this goal (and then some), he has proved his doubters wrong.
The numbers tell the story. In 2005, the RUSD farm-to-school program was just a pilot project, with one school salad bar. By 2010, all 31 schools in the district offered salad bars. And while the program is revenue neutral for the district, it generates income for the small, local farmers who supply the fruits and vegetables. Read More