USDA Deputy Secretary Will Visit Reiche School
Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree will join state and local officials at Reiche Elementary School on September 24 to learn about the Portland Public Schools’ use of local foods in its school cafeterias, Reiche’s participation in a USDA program providing free lunch for all students and other food-related initiatives.
In addition to Merrigan and Pingree, participants will include:
- Walter Beesley, director of the Maine Child Nutrition Program
- Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk
- Julie Sullivan, director of Portland Public Health
- Peter Eglinton, chief operations officer of the Portland Public Schools
- Ron Adams, food service director of the Portland Public Schools
- Blair Currier, the district’s local food specialist
- Chanda Turner, the district’s school health coordinator for nutrition
In recent years, the Portland Public Schools has worked hard to increase the amount of local foods served in its cafeterias. Currently, about 30 percent of all food, including milk and fresh fruits and vegetables, comes from local sources.
Students at several schools grow vegetables in their school gardens that are harvested and served in the cafeterias. Each fall, the district highlights local foods during Harvest Lunch week by featuring apples, potatoes, corn and other produce from local farms.
The district also has increased the amount of food cooked from scratch at its Central Kitchen and decreased the use of processed food. Nearly all of Portland’s schools now have salad bars.
This year, the district has expanded its participation in USDA programs. The programs now provide free lunch to all students at Reiche School and free breakfast to students at Reiche and four other Portland public schools.
Merrigan is a strong advocate of local food, sustainable farming and bringing healthy food to schools. Pingree invited her to visit Reiche to see first-hand how the Portland Public Schools are bringing local food into the lunchroom and how students are learning about gardening.