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Whitsons Enhances Farm-to-School Initiatives

Local Food Sourcing and Nutrition Education Engage Children in Healthy Eating 

 

Islandia, NY, April 4, 2017 - Whitsons Culinary Group, a provider of fresh nutrition services for public schools throughout the Northeast, strongly supports the Farm-to-School movement and has implemented programs to incorporate local produce in school meals.

“Whitsons is committed to the Farm-to-School movement and serving wholesome, high-quality meals prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients,” said Kelly Friend, Chief Operating Officer of Whitsons “We are also equally excited about our education programs that present nutritious food in fun and engaging ways and encourage students to live healthy lifestyles.”

The company’s latest Farm-to-School initiatives include:

 

A Commitment to Local Agriculture

Sourcing food from local vendors and farmers has helped Whitsons remove ingredients like trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors from its food and has also helped the company reduce sodium content ahead of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act requirements. “We are proud to report that Whitsons sources an average of 52% of our total product mix locally,” said Friend.

Whitsons purchases locally harvested produce whenever it’s seasonally available and also extends the season by flash freezing produce to serve in the colder months when fresh produce is not available. Flash freezing seals in the vitamins and nutrients when foods are at the height of their nutritional value. Whitsons partners with local produce grower coops who in turn work with a group of farmers within a region. These local farmer networks have the ability to flash freeze produce right on the farms within hours of harvesting. This process locks in freshness and allows farmers the ability to harvest entire fields quickly and also supports the local economies where the produce is harvested. Whitsons purchases and flash freezes over a million pounds produce each year.

“Purchasing locally grown food benefits everyone. It looks and tastes better so kids enjoy it. The food is fresh, all natural, and organic when possible, so schools and parents can feel good about what their children are eating. And it helps support local families and businesses and builds community connections,” said Friend.

 

Locally Grown Education Programs

In keeping with its commitment to local food sourcing and food education, Whitsons developed their Greenleaf Cuisine® initiative where the company promotes the local farms where its produce is harvested from. Each month, the company partners with one of its suppliers or farms and highlights a locally-sourced and seasonal fruit or vegetable of the month that is also incorporated into menu items for students.

Whitsons supports Farm to School initiatives and partners with the National Farm to School Network. Whitsons was one of the first companies to partner with the Massachusetts Farm to School Project on its statewide “Harvest of the Month” campaign which is incorporated into existing nutrition education programs. The Farm to School campaign promotes a different locally grown food each month in schools in an effort to increase student consumption of fruits and vegetables, encourage healthy food choices and increase students’ exposure to healthy, nutritious foods.

Whitsons’ Elmer Organic Garden initiative was developed as a means to connect students to the foods they eat through school gardens. School gardens enable students to taste fruits and vegetables that they have grown themselves and make the farm to plate connection in their school cafes. Indoor vertical gardens are also available as part of this program to bring the garden experience indoors for students during the entire school year.

Additionally, Whitsons works with the schools they serve to apply for Farm-to-School grants to assist districts in further implementing farm-to-school activities such as: student samplings of local produce, farm school trips, school garden activities, and additional efforts to incorporate local produce in school meals.

“The goal of these education programs is to provide the very best produce that the region has to offer and teach our kids about the farm to fork process,” said Friend, “When kids know where their food is coming from, it can make healthy eating more fun.”

 

About Whitsons Culinary Group

Whitsons Culinary Group provides a wide range of highly customized dining services to public schools, with a strong focus on nutritious, high quality meals made from wholesome, fresh ingredients. Whitsons has a long and proud history of excellence and growth since 1979 and is setting new standards for the foodservice industry with wholesome foods and family values.

For more information, please visit www.whitsons.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter.