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January Local Foods Update
Attaining our goal of spending half of our food budget on local products has been a baby step process of putting systems in place piece by piece. Last year our purchases from Oakhurst Dairy, Amatos Bakery, The Maine Grind Meat Company, Cozy Harbor Seafood and produce from Maine farmers put us at 30 percent of our food spending. This year, along with those vendors, we've focused quite a bit more on the produce piece.
During Maine Harvest Lunch Week (9/17 - 9/21) we purchased over 2,500 lbs of local produce and since then have made sure there are two to three local offerings on the menu every week. As a result, for the months of October, November and December we've purchased 12,000 lbs of produce from within the state.
These purchases have also gained us a few new skills. For instance in order to take advantage of low prices suddenly hitting the market, we've had to learn how to make last minute ordering changes a smooth process. Such deals happened this past fall on green bell peppers, carrots, cherry tomatoes and broccoli.
Deals aren't always last minute. Planning helps with prices as well. For instance one local farm sends us 100 lbs of green and red cabbage along with 25 lbs of carrots for coleslaw 3 times a month, from October to March.
Having a calendar with a list of peak availabilities for Maine produce has also allowed us to take advantage of low prices. Quite often it's possible to find certain items that are lower or equal to prices from our prime vendor. In one instance we did organic watermelon from Unity four weeks in a row. We were even able to do a shipment of 330 lbs of local cantaloupe.
To meet 4,000 lbs in January we've purchased butternut squash, potatoes, daikon radish, along with our weekly and bi-weekly supply of apples, carrots and cabbage for coleslaw. January is also a time for seed ordering for one of our farmers. With them we've established prices and total poundage for shipments in the summer that will restock our freezer for the next school year.
We're also in the process of doing large scale marinara processing with local tomatoes, onions, zucchini, summer squash and garlic scapes. Over the year we've perfected a recipe that makes 100 gallons and now we're ready to make a batch using 2,000 lbs of Maine tomatoes!
Maine Harvest Lunch Week gave us a great jump start to the school year and from there we've managed to keep the ball rolling piece by piece.
Local update for October
We served 4,000 lbs of local produce for the month.
Including: Watermelon from Unity, Beans from Exeter, Kale from Lisbon, Cabbage from Freeport, Carrots from Freeport, Lisbon and Vasselboro
Apples (not sure), Beets from Freeport, Summer Squash from Buxton, Zucchini from Buxton, Scapes from Lisbon, Lettuce from Cape Elizabeth,
Bell Peppers from Parkman.
We also served school garden grown produce as well.
At Reiche we served a salad with their garden grown Bangladeshi spinach, amaranth greens, swiss chard, kale and nasturtium. These complemented some
green leaf lettuce from Maxwell's Farm in Cape Elizabeth and was served with a creamy buttermilk dressing seasoned with their garden grown parsley,
oregano, thyme and tarragon. On a separate day we also served a pear, parsley and lemon smoothie with ingredients generously provided by JoAn Street.
The parsley in the smoothie came from Reiche garden.
At East End I cooked for them Swiss Chard that was grown in their garden. Nearly every student had a taste in the cafeteria with the majority approving.
It was sauteed with caramelized onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar.
At Longfellow a volunteer and I went classroom to classroom giving out samples of their garden grown potatoes and carrots.
They were diced, mixed together and steamed with salt, pepper and a little butter. Out of a 137 that tried it, 117 said they would eat it in the school lunch and 20 said they would not.
Blair Currier, Local Foods Specialist
What schools are offering free meals for every student?
As of September 2012, the following schools are offering free breakfast for every student (and staff if they are eating with students in the class room):
East End, Riverton, Presumpscot, Lincoln Middle.
As of September 2012, Reiche School is offering free breakfast AND free lunch for every student.
We also offer free breakfast each Monday at Portland and Deering High Schools.
2012-2013 MEAL PRICES:
GRADES PreK – 5 LUNCH $2.50, BREAKFAST $1.25 MILK $0.50 (8 o.z.)
GRADES 6 – 12 LUNCH $2.75, BREAKFAST $1.25, MILK $0.50 (8 o.z.)
GRADES PreK TO 12: REDUCED BREAKFAST AND LUNCH IS NOW FREE.
- All parents and staff will now PREPAY for the week or month and no one can tell who has free, reduced or full pay meal prices in any school.
- In case they run out of money, students will be able to charge up to 5 meals K-5, 3 meals in Middle School but NO charging is allowed in the High Schools.
- Please send a check or cash in the new DEPOSIT envelope with the student name, IDENTIFICATION NUMBER and the amount each MONDAY.
- Please make checks payable to PPS Food Services.
- When the student runs low on money, parents will be contacted by phone. If no money comes in before the charge limit is reached:
Students grades PK-3 will receive an alternate meal until full payment is made;
Students in grades 4-12 may be denied a meal until full payment is made.
If you receive a letter from Food Services saying your family is Free, DO NOT send any other paper work into the school. You are set for the year.
All other Free and Reduced meal applications must be COMPLETED by September 28th.
ALL meals are subsidized by the US Department of Agriculture with dedicated funding from tariffs on imports.
If you are eligible for free or reduced meals but only want milk, you MUST pay the $0.50 for the milk. The meal is free BUT the milk alone is regular price for everyone.
All schools BENEFIT from more eligible students as this determines funding for lunches, technology, library, Title I and grants.
All Reduced students now receive a FREE breakfast AND lunch every day.
Menus are posted on www.portlandschools.org and on Channel 3.
Portland Public Schools has demonstrated a significant commitment to providing our students with healthy and wholesome food. In the past five years, Portland has increased the nutrition content of foods and increased the proportion of local foods offered in schools while still working within school budget limitations. Eight of Portland’s Elementary schools have been awarded Healthier US Schools Challenge Bronze Awards, which recognize excellence in the school food with menus that meet nutrition standards above and beyond federal and state requirements.
Portland Public Schools does not purchase ground beef products that contain “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB). Portland purchases pre-cooked beef burgers from a national company that does not use LFTB. In addition, growing portions of Portland’s ground beef purchases are from local companies committed to natural and sustainable farming practices. In the last few years Portland’s school lunch program has featured burgers from The Maine Grind in Portland, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport.
Unlike most other school districts in the country, Portland does not purchase ground beef from the USDA School Commodities Market. PPS is a “Cash in Lieu of Commodities” district. This means that all USDA food dollars are received in cash that can be spent with any vendor rather than being locked into commodities foods. Portland is one of only 30 school districts in the country to have this distinction. This enables Portland to purchase more food from local companies and gives us more flexibility to access the best products for our students at the best prices.
Each fall, elementary students in the Portland Public Schools enjoy Maine-grown foods as part of school lunch during Maine Harvest Lunch week. The Portland Public Schools has participated in Maine Harvest Lunch since 2008. Many Portland schools grow food in their school gardens to serve in their cafeterias.
Benefits of incorporating local foods into school lunches are numerous. Buying locally puts money back in the Maine economy. Because locally grown food is raised for taste rather than durability during transport, Maine grown food tastes better. Fresher foods from local producers translate to healthy eating and ultimately better learning. Furthermore, introducing students to the importance of buying locally strengthens the community, by creating connections between the food we eat and where it is grown.