January 2022 Newsletter
January 17th, 2022
Fall Menu Survey Results
Our Fall 2021 Menu Survey is complete. This was our first survey since March 2020, just before COVID hit. Participation was significantly lower than in past surveys, which we expected based on the gap in time between surveys, among other factors. That said, we were pleased to have feedback from students, staff, and parents, and will be expanding our survey outreach in the Spring for our current Winter Menu.
As always, these surveys provide valuable and helpful information that helps to shape our menus, future menu items, and how we roll out new programs or changes and additions to existing programs.
Click here for our survey wrap-up.
School Gardens Grow Curious Minds; Harvest Knowledge
When Chris De La Cruz steps into one of the gardens at Beaumont Elementary (there are two) and asks, “who wants to see something cool?” The roar from students is infectious and the excitement they exude is palpable. Students swarm around “Mr. Chris” as he shows them the latest growth of a pumpkin or spaghetti squash. Oohs and aahs resound as he points out the progress of a sunflower from a barely planted seed to a nearly 6-foot tall plant bathing in the sunshine.
Chris serves as a garden and cooking teacher at Beaumont through a grant from the SAGE Garden Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for garden and cooking education at schools. Chris delivers these classes to each and every Beaumont student. He teaches lessons on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, cycling through the entire school in those two days.
Says Chris, “I think it’s important, early on, to make the connection to where our food comes from and the impact it can have on their bodies, their communities, and the planet. Some of these messages are clicking with them and I can see it in their eyes and hear it in their enthusiasm.”
WaveCrest Cafe has been committed to its Farm to School program for several years now, and programs like this one at Beaumont address two of the three pillars of Farm to School directly, while a third may be in the wings (SAGE also has teachers in place at Casita Center and VAPA).
Farm to School’s three pillars are:
- Local and regional food procurement
- School gardens
- Nutrition education
Pillars 2 and 3 are part and parcel of the garden and cooking classes. The first is something that many Vista Unified schools did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team at WaveCrest Cafe worked with many school gardens to become Certified School Gardens, meaning the district could purchase food directly from the schools, with funds allocated to go back to supporting the gardens themselves. The purchased produce was then offered to students on the salad bar during lunch.
Getting more school gardens back to producing enough to sell to WaveCrest may take a few more months, but experience shows that students are excited about being served the food that they’ve grown, which leads to an increase in eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
EATING WHAT’S IN SEASON
As students gather with “Mr. Chris”, they learn about gardening, why certain foods grow in certain seasons, and how eating with the seasons contributes to our bodies getting the nutrients they need in each season. The garden and cooking classes are holistic lessons on nature, the environment, and how to develop lifelong sustainable skills like growing and preparing food for oneself.
Says Chris, “They’re also learning about something that they consume every day. The more they are exposed to the importance of healthy soil and food, the closer they will become to bettering themselves and the world.”
For the cooking side, the cooking classroom has a mobile counter set up, complete with a swiveling whiteboard/mirror that allows students to better see what Mr. Chris is doing, as his work on a flat surface is reflected back to the students. Students get to help prepare ingredients for a variety of items, and of course, taste the results of their help and Chris’s expertise.
“My favorite aspects of teaching kids gardening and cooking,” says Chris, “are knowing that they are being exposed to where food comes from at an impressionable age and that I can make 30 kids say ‘whoa!’ at something as simple as grating a carrot.”
For more pictures from this story, click here.
2022 kicks off the Harvest of the Month program featuring a common and sometimes overlooked vegetable: Cabbage. The lesson plans provide learning opportunities for four different varieties of cabbage: Green, red (or purple), savoy, and Chinese.
The word cabbage derives from the French word caboche meaning “head.” The species B. oleracea, or wild cabbage, is grouped into seven major cultivars based on development. Within the Capitata Group alone there are more than 400 cabbage varieties, the most common are the green, red, purple, and savoy varieties. Most Asian cabbage varieties belong to another species, B. rapa. This includes Chinese cabbage, which is also known as Napa or celery cabbage.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, along with broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, and others. Cruciferous, meaning “cross-bearing”, comes from the shape of the plant’s flowers, which have four petals resembling a cross.
Different varieties of cabbage serve as excellent sources of a number of vitamins, including vitamins C, K, and A. They are also rich in phytochemicals, along with other produce such as blueberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and soy-based foods. Phytochemicals appear to work together with nutrients and fiber to provide health benefits.
- Cabbage grows best in temperatures between 50º – 75º F
- During the Middle Ages, cabbage juice was commonly used to heal wounds and as a cough remedy.
- With over 13,000 acres harvested for cabbages, California leads the nation in commercial cabbage production.
- Cabbage is shipped year-round in California, reaching its peak in March for traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare of corned beef and cabbage.
Learn more about cabbage, and discover how delicious it is, and how you can prepare it for your family. You can download our Harvest of the Month resources for families here.
If your child’s teacher wants to sign up for the program, it’s easy. For more information about the program, classroom tasting parties, and more, click here for our promo flyer.
A reminder that all school meals for the 2021-22 school year are offered to students at no cost. That includes breakfast, lunch, and supper if your child’s school offers a supper option. We are grateful to the USDA for expanding our ability to offer these meals to our students at no cost and hope that you will make the most of this offer.
Not only can families save plenty of money on food, but with meals ready at school, you’ll have more time to spend together as a family than when you used to be making lunches! As always, we are committed to serving fresh, healthy, delicious meals, and working with as many local and California-based farms as possible.
*** With meals being offered at no charge, we are anticipating more students will be dining with us. This may affect the availability of some entrees as we learn and adapt to greater numbers and meet the demand.
Staff Spotlight: Karolyn Wasung
Our Staff Spotlight to kick off the new year is the newest member of the WaveCrest Cafe office team, Operations Manager Karolyn (Karly) Wasung. A San Diego native, Karly has jumped right into the middle of a busy season, as our Director, Jamie Phillips, is on parental leave. Karly is a fantastic addition to our team. We’re excited to introduce Karly to our Vista USD community.
Tell us a bit about who you are, where you’re from, and how you came to be part of the WaveCrest and Vista USD team.
I’m from San Diego – I was born and raised in Poway. My entire childhood I wanted to be a pastry chef, as I’ve always loved cooking and baking. During high school I fell in love with biology and that, combined with my love for cooking, drove me to become interested in nutrition and dietetics. For college, I went to Arizona State University and earned my Bachelor’s in Nutrition and Dietetics.
After graduating, I worked in the food and nutrition department at Chandler Unified School district, a large school district outside of Phoenix, Arizona. After working there for a year, I began my dietetic internship with Utah State University. With USU’s Dietetic internship, I was able to set up all of my rotations, so I came back to San Diego to complete all of my dietetic rotations. What’s really interesting about Utah State’s program is that they’re very child nutrition focused, so we do a longer Child Nutrition rotation compared to other dietetic internships.
And then you went back to Arizona?
Yes. Once I finished my dietetic internship, Chandler Unified School District offered me a position as their menu planner for the district. I moved back to Arizona and worked with Chandler Unified for another two years. During this time I passed my Registered Dietitian exam and completed my masters in Dietetic Administration, also through Utah State University.
What was next?
Life took me to Tennessee for a year where I worked as a clinical dietitian at an outpatient intensive cardiac rehab facility. I loved conducting one-on-one nutrition counseling sessions with patients and I especially enjoyed teaching nutrition classes and performing cooking demonstrations at the facility.
But I missed the foodservice side of dietetics that I got from Chandler, and I knew that once I moved back to San Diego it was my mission and my goal to get back into child nutrition and school districts.
And that led you to Vista and WaveCrest Cafe! Tell us a bit about your role here.
My role is the operational manager. So I’m overseeing the department, specifically while Jamie’s out on leave, and taking on some of his duties as the director. I’m really excited about implementing new menu items and moving more towards a scratch-based central kitchen. Additionally, I really would like to get more nutrition education into the classrooms. I’m excited to work on some of those projects, along with continuing to develop the staffs’ focus on food safety.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to get out to some school sites and do some nutrition education and taste tests with the students. I hope to get them excited about our program and teach them a little bit more about why it’s so important to have nutrition education early on and create healthy habits for the rest of their lives.
What do you hope comes through the nutrition education process?
Through the nutrition education process, I hope students are able to have a better understanding of the importance of nutrition and the long-term effects their choices today can have on the rest of their lives. I hope they will understand how to build a balanced plate and know that all foods can fit into a healthy life. Nutrition is all about balance, not about never being able to enjoy your favorite foods. It’s about incorporating them into your life in an appropriate manner and quantity. One of my favorite things to do in nutrition classes is to have students try new foods. This allows students to venture outside of their comfort zone and hopefully, encourages them to try new foods more often and incorporate a larger variety of nutritious foods in their diet. I am hoping to see the healthy habits they create now carried forward into their future.
What do you want people to know about school nutrition programs?
I think it’s important that students and parents are aware of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines, and know we follow these rules to build the school menus to provide balanced and nutritious meals. I think when parents understand the nutritional requirements school districts must follow, they feel better about having their children eat with us. I like to communicate the “why” behind the NSLP guidelines and how these guidelines can improve students’ overall health. When the students understand the health benefits of eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, they are more likely to choose these items with their meals.
Were you aware of what WaveCrest had done in terms of its Farm to School program?
I wasn’t until I saw the position was posted and started doing more research on the district. When I was looking at school foodservice positions, I really wanted to find a department that put nutrition and serving fresh, healthy foods at the forefront. I wanted to make sure my passion and mission also aligned closely with the district’s. So that was a huge draw when I saw how innovative Vista was. I knew my expertise, coming from a district with a large central kitchen and my nutrition background could really be put to good use and that a forward-thinking, adventurous mindset would really be appreciated in the department.
Do you still do pastry baking?
In my own time, I do. Mostly for family events and birthdays, but sometimes I bake for larger events like relatives’ weddings, baby showers, or bridal showers.
Do you watch any of the cooking and baking competition shows on that stuff?
Yes! I watch Chopped and most of the other baking/ cooking competitions. It’s fun to think about what I would create if I was competing.
Aside from cooking shows, do you have any binge-watching favorites?
Right now my binge-watch is Life Below Zero and Secrets of the Zoo from National Geographic. My other go-to’s are Friends and How I Met Your Mother.
Do you have favorite music? Artists or styles?
My favorite style of music is country, but I also listen to alternative pop/ reggae music as well.
What do you do for hobbies?
My hobbies have taken a backseat because I’m planning my wedding. So really, I’m focused on work, spending time with family, and then wedding planning. I live close to the beach so in my free time I like to take advantage and walk on the beach and spend time outdoors.
We have staffing opportunities at most of our schools, and new positions come up regularly. Come be part of a fun, dynamic team and serve our students, staff, and families every day.
With all meals being offered at no charge, we are anticipating even more students will be dining with us, which may result in longer lines. Help us serve our students faster and better – come be part of our team!
Click here to learn more about our open positions and apply today.
MENU SPOTLIGHT: Chicken Street Tacos
We’re thrilled to have brought back this popular entree from previous years. Our Chicken Street Tacos are packed with nutrients and taste, as well as being a familiar favorite for students and staff alike.
Flavorful white meat chicken is piled on top of our whole wheat tortillas, and diners are given a multitude of options to create their own meal. From fresh cilantro and onions to our own homemade salsa and much more, these tasty tacos are the perfect lunch entree.
Add our fresh, seasonal fruits & veggies on the side (or on a taco) and make it a complete meal. There’s a reason that this is a perennial favorite.
Be sure to check your school’s menu to see which day Chicken Street Tacos are being served, and enjoy!
Resources & Grants | Recursos y subvenciones
Request A Master Gardener For Your School
The San Diego County Master Gardener Association provides Master Gardeners to help schools set up and maintain gardens. Master Gardeners act as consultants, mentoring parents and teachers who request help with beginning or improving their school gardens. Request a garden consultant here.
Educational Garden Design Grant – Rolling Dates
The California Native Garden Foundation offers grants for school gardens that feature CA native plants. Types of support include garden design services, in-kind donations of plants and landscape materials, volunteer assistance, and direct financial assistance. Click here to learn more and to apply.
American Heart Association Teaching Gardens Grant – Rolling Dates
The American Heart Association is helping the fight against childhood obesity by planting gardens in elementary schools across the country that become real-life learning laboratories for students to experience what it means to be healthy. Click here to learn more.
Grant From Children’s Obesity Fund – Rolling Dates
The Children’s Obesity Fund seeks to educate parents and children about America’s rising obesity rates and prevent the next generation from continuing down this unhealthy road. The fund strives to support nonprofit organizations that share the goal of eliminating childhood obesity. Find out more here.
Bonnie’s Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program – Rolling Dates
Bonnie’s provides free mega-cabbage plants to 3rd-grade teachers across the US who want to participate. Students grow the cabbages and submit pictures and measurements of their harvest to be considered for a $1,000 scholarship. Find out how to participate here.
Captain Planet Foundation Grants – Rolling Dates
Captain Planet Foundation invests in high-quality, solution-based programs that embrace STEM learning and empower youth to become local & global environmental change-makers. Educators who are interested in receiving support for students to design and implement hands-on environmental solutions are eligible for project funding. Learn more here.
Annie’s Garden Fundraiser – Donate or Start Your Fundraiser Today
Annie’s started this website to track school garden fundraisers, and also to provide a resource to design and publicize your own school garden fundraising campaign. Start by clicking on “Set up your fundraiser” or find an existing campaign to support. Participants have opportunities to win weekly prizes. Click here for more information.
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This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Esta institución es un proveedor de igualdad de oportunidades.