February 29, 2012 (Independence, IA) ‐ La Rochefoucauld said “to eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” Students in the Independence Community School District (ICSD) are experiencing the gradual creation of a healthy food service program. Food Service Director, Jessica Weber, is at the helm of this transformation which started prior to her arrival in the district and includes the Farm to School Program.
Weber graduated from East Buchanan and then earned a degree in Patisserie & Baking from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago before signing on as the ICSD Food Service Director last year. Weber has a passion for nutrition and educating students about the importance of healthy eating. “We would like to improve the kids’ involvement in deciding to make healthy choices like being in the garden and trying fruits and veggies at lunch”, said Weber.
The garden refers to the ICSD School Garden currently located just south of the Administration Building. The School Garden is a way for district students to experience first‐hand the cycle of planting, growing, tending and harvesting fresh produce. Weber is excited to expand the garden, now in its third season, on two acres located on the district’s 92 acres.
“The School Garden expansion is a fairly large task and we are looking for student, parent and community help to jumpstart the project,” added Weber. “We are forming a Garden Club for students in 7th to 12th grade and would love participation from community members and even from parents along with their younger children. This is a great opportunity for older kids to teach younger kids about the importance of eating healthy as they may be more likely to listen to them than an adult.” Garden Club participants will learn about preparing seedlings, planting, tending, harvesting and final product preparation.
Weber has several goals for the food service department like making improvements to the East and West Elementary kitchens, having a successful Farm to School crop this summer and getting the mini green house at West Elementary up and running again. Part of Weber’s position is to ensure that all USDA food guidelines are implemented into the district’s programs. “The USDA’s guidelines are changing for the next school year, but Independence and many other districts in the area are leaps and bounds ahead of others schools in the country, so I do not believe it will be too much of a shock for our district,” said Weber. “We already have a strong Farm to School Program which is becoming a staple in many school districts, and we will continue to grow ours.”
“Of course my main focus is always to expand student, faculty, and community members’ knowledge of the importance of a balanced, locally grown diet,” added Weber. For more information about the Farm to School Program visit www.farmtoschool.org. If you would like to participate in the School Garden, please contact Jessica Weber at 334‐7400 ext. 597 or JessicaWeber@independence.k12.ia.us.
Jenny Yoder, Fusion Forward