Sarasota County Schools
Go Meatless Monday

October 6th, 2014


As of today, Sarasota County Schools will implement Meatless Monday.This means 52 school cafeterias will forgo the meat and instead offer lunches like hummus and vegetable subs, veggie pasta bake and veggie taco salad.

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So 42,000 Florida students will be afforded the opportunity to eat better and to learn about the health and environmental benefits of reducing the meat in ones diet. And schools are partnering with local chefs to make sure the food is tasty and delicious—they’ll have to—because 70% of kids must approve of the dishes in order for them to stay on the menu. Schools are also aiming to source 50% of their produce from local farms, which is a more environmentally sustainable practice and it’s great for the local economy.

 

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Photos courtesy of wfla.com

The Sarasota County School District is not unfamiliar with healthy eating. The district runs the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program and they also use a green-yellow-and-red color system to indicate which foods are the most nutrient-dense so students and faculty to can make healthy choices at the school cafeteria.


Two important figures in championing health school lunches are
Beverly Girard, director of food and nutritional services at Sarasota County Schools, and Karla Dumas, Area Supervisor/Buyer at the School Board of Sarasota County. And Karla was kind enough to answer a few questions we put to her.


Meatless Monday:
  What made you decide to launch the Meatless Monday Program—who were the advocates?

Karla Dumas:  In Sarasota County, we strive to provide a variety of food choices and saw this as an opportunity to showcase meals with meat-free protein sources such as cheese, eggs, peanut butter, and legumes. The feedback we receive from student focus groups at many of our schools is to offer more meat-free options. For many years, Sarasota County has provided vegetarian and vegan entrée choices and this is simply a different way to highlight these choices.

The Meatless Monday initiative was brought to Sarasota County Schools by Kristie Middleton and as a department we felt this would be a great way to highlight the non-meat options we already offer. Ultimately, the decision to participate in Meatless Monday was based on student requests.

 

MM:  How was the menu developed?

KD:
  Our Food and Nutrition Services department has a menu committee comprised of our 8 registered dietitians on staff along with 8-10 of our school based Managers. We base our menus off of the previous year and make changes to incorporate new recipes and products along with seasonal items. Our district has a strong focus on offering as much local products as possible and this influences the menu as well. The Meatless Monday options are products and recipes our district already regularly offers and we simply moved them to Monday. As I mentioned in the first question, several years ago, we offered non-meat entrees daily and created many recipes for this purpose.
MM:  Can you speak about efforts to use local area produce?

sarasota_broccliKD:
  Our Director, Dr. Beverly Girard, has always worked to bring in as much local food items as possible. Sarasota County was one of the first districts to have a stand-alone “Farm Fresh” produce bid, specific to local produce. Last year, our Food & Nutrition Services was awarded a large Farm to School grant to expand upon our program. We are currently bringing in local milk, eggs, orange juice and a variety of local fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Our ultimate goal is to have 50% of our produce offered to be from a local source.


The Meatless Monday campaign is scheduled to run the remainder of the school year. But hopefully the students will carry on the Meatless Monday campaign at home throughout the summer.