Who says speed dating doesn’t work? Dru Rivers (pictured left ) representing Full Belly Farms in Capay Valley, Yolo County, along with 25 or more farmers met with the same number of school food service in Yolo County’s Norwood Hall on Wednesday November 12. The districts represented over 200,000 students in northern California. They “speed dated” for an hour and a half, then followed that with a reception over which more informal relationships were forged over wine, Fuyu persimmons, dates, walnuts, and baklava.
Dru told us she thought her farm could deliver to school districts such as Lodi Unified, which was represented by Food Service Director Nancy Rostomily (pictured left, sitting, talking with Josh Zeldner of Z Specialty Food.) Like many directors there, Nancy purchases local produce where possible, and was looking for more contacts and sources. Her student population is 35,000.
The group of 60 or so heard from John Young, Yolo County Agriculture Commissioner, and Kristy Levings (pictured left) who described how the speed dating would work. Farmers on one side, school food service and distributors on the other. Every five minutes, she rang a cowbell, literally, and school food service moved down to the next farmer. In this way, everyone got to meet just about everyone. Kristy had copies of a profile of each farmer and school food service so they could exchange information — if the match seemed relevant.
One Chief Business Official attended. Mike Henkel (pictured left in the white shirt standing up) of Robla School District in Sacramento County said he’s interested in supporting his school food service director in purchasing more local, fresh fruits and vegetables. His district has about 2,000 students and he’d like them all to be eating a delicious, house made meal, where possible. He said he and his team, he brought his food service director and a cafeteria manager, learned a lot and made some great new contacts. It’s so helpful to a CBO with a vision of fresh, delicious school meals.
We wish he, and all the other attendees well. Their success could set a new standard practice for school dining — meeting the farmer who is growing your food and making a match at an annual gathering hosted by the local agricultural commissioner. This may have been a first in California — we hope it’s not the last. For more information on the event, contact Kristy Levings, Director, Farm to School, Yolo County, or visit the website, Harvest Hub Yolo.