Source: Cuyamaca College
Photos by Phy Nguyen, Cuyamaca College: Preschoolers at the Cuyamaca College Child Development Center give rave reviews to fresh, organic food now served. A recent lunch featured Potato Egg Scramble with salsa, corn tortilla, and black beans.
February 5, 2016 (Rancho San Diego) -- Curried chicken salad. Roasted garlic and rosemary bean soup. Roasted turmeric cauliflower. Menu selections from a hot new restaurant? Guess again.
These are dishes on February’s menu for the preschoolers at Cuyamaca College’s Child Development Center, which recently contracted for food services through the Neighborhood House Association, a multi-purpose human services agency and the local administrators of the federal Head Start program. NHA prepares and delivers thousands of made-from-scratch meals daily to preschools like the facility at Cuyamaca College.
With an eye toward moving away from the carb-heavy, light-on-veggies dishes previously served the 2- to 5-year-olds, the child development center switched to NHA’s natural and organic meals featuring fresh produce from local farmers. After the first week, reviews for the meals provided free to the children have been great from the often-finicky little ones, said center coordinator Denise Blaha.
“We compost with the children and measure our food waste, and our waste was significantly lower this week,” said Blaha, who oversees the facilityserving more than 70 children from the college and off-campus communities. “It was roughly 40 pounds compared to the 70-80 pounds of food waste composted every week. The children simply didn’t find the food previously served very appetizing.”
Uniquely suited as an onsite lab for students enrolled in the college’s Child Development program, the center in recent years adopted a Farm to Preschool Curriculum developed by the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. The new food program funded by state monies to Cuyamaca fits in nicely with the center’s ongoing efforts to teach good nutrition to a generation accustomed to diets heavy on processed foods.
The center partnered with the county’s Aging and Independent Services in 2012 to develop an intergenerational garden, a 1/3-acre plot between the Child Development Center and the Water Conservation Garden that produces a bountiful crop of produce planted and grown by the children with the help of senior volunteers affectionately called “Gardening Grandmas.”
“Through our partnership with NHA, we finally have a menu that reflects the learning that takes place in our garden and our classrooms,” Blaha said.
The fresh, whole foods, which are ethnically diverse and kid-tested, arrive each day from NHA’s central kitchen and are served three times daily, along with a dash of nutrition education. \“NHA has a Harvest of the Month program for the menus so that every month a new and seasonal produce is featured,” Blaha said. “Our Intergenerational Garden volunteers use this curriculum with our children. The families are able to take home our harvest and prepare food that the children have grown.”
Food for thought for the youngest of Cuyamaca College’s population.