Nutrition Services keeps a local flavor in feeding PPS students9/23/2019
Portland has a reputation for being a great food city, with restaurants that use locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients. So it makes perfect sense that meals in Portland Public Schools also are created to reflect those values.
The district’s Nutrition Services department runs two programs – a monthly Local Lunch Days and a weekly Harvest of the Month – that use and feature locally-grown ingredients.
“It’s definitely one our values, supporting our local farmers and ranchers,” said Whitney Ellersick, Senior Director of Nutrition Services.
The first Local Lunch Day was held last week and featured locally-grown organic chicken drumsticks. Next month’s is on Tuesday, Oct. 15, and will feature hamburger patties made from grass-fed beef from Carman Ranch, a longtime PPS partner from Wallowa in Eastern Oregon.
In September, the Harvest of the Month – which features a locally-grown fruit or vegetable served with meals on Thursdays – was melon from Pollock and Sons of Hermiston. The company had trouble selling watermelons in stores after Labor Day, even though the fruit remains in prime flavor in the early fall, but found a willing buyer in PPS, where students could retain some summer taste to start the school year.
Nutrition Services also tries to use vendors that are mindful of the environment, for example using sustainably-grown flour from Shepherd’s Grain to make bread.
Ellersick and her team typically get at least 32% of ingredients from local growers. Some proteins can be cost prohibitive to use frequently, but the monthly Local Lunch Days show what could be possible with a little more funding.
“We can take that to show our legislators and others that people are behind our farm-to-school programs,” Ellersick said.
School meals are not paid for out of PPS’s general fund; instead, they are funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.
“That means it’s usually about 2.2 million federal dollars that we’re reinvesting into the local economy,” Ellersick said.
This year’s Local Lunch Days schedule:
- Sept. 17, 2019: Organic Chicken Drumsticks
- Oct. 15, 2019: Carman Ranch grass-fed beef
- Nov. 22, 2019: Champoeg turkey
- Jan. 21, 2020 : Curry with chickpeas and potatoes
- Feb. 14, 2020: Lemon Butter Herb Alaskan Cod
- March 6, 2020: Oregon Rockfish tacos
- April 8, 2020: Umi Organic Yakisoba
- May 12, 2020: Carman Ranch grass-fed beef
Harvest of the Month schedule
- September: Melons
- October: Cauliflower
- November: Squash
- December: Brussels Sprouts
- January: Root Vegetables
- February: Pears
- March: Oregon Berries
- April: Mushrooms
- May: Asparagus
Learn more about the PPS meal programs at the Nutrition Services webpage.