WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) — The lines for lunch are out the door at a nearby school district.
At the start of this year’s school year, the Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District introduced a “farm-to-school” lunch model.
This was after last school year when the District went viral globally after a frustrated parent posted photos of the school’s lunches on social media. These photos depicted lunches that students and parents considered “unappetizing” and “lacking.”
Changes came soon after. Superintendent of Schools Steven Coffin said the District began speaking with its immediate community.
“We formed a committee of parents, students, staff,” Coffin explained. “It was clear, we needed a change.”
With the help of this committee, Parishville-Hopkinton developed its new vision for school lunches, which included mostly fresh food and meals made from scratch.
To make this vision come to life, a new food service manager and cook were hired. The food service department also reworked its kitchen and trained existing staff.
“It’s all very labor intensive,” Food Service Manager Taylor Harbor said. “But it’s worth it to provide these options to the kids.”
Now instead of staff heating up premade meals, they spend their time, prepping, chopping and serving. Students now can choose from food cooked in the kitchen that day, more fruits and vegetables and differing recipes.
The menu is ever-changing based on availability. Three weeks into the school year, the feedback from students has also been positive. Ashley Vangellow, whose father posted the original photos last year, said he’s seen a massive switch.
“Now that it’s farm-to-table, we’re able to experiment with new foods, new meals,” Vangellow said. “So many people are bringing less food to school and buying the school’s lunches instead.”
But according to Superintendent Coffin, there is still work to be done. The District hopes to source most of its products from local farmers or businesses.
He believes this is possible as PHCSD is a smaller K-12 school that is surrounded by rural communities.
“Fresh food’s expensive,” Coffin said. “We have the staff that can do this, now we’re looking to get more fresh produce.”
To address this need, Parishville-Hopkinton is set to host a community forum on October 5. More information can be found on the District’s website.