January 2024 Nutrition Newsletter

January 09th, 2024



In this issue:
• Farm 2 School Spotlight: Stehly Farms Organic
• Menu Survey Results Recap
• Staff Spotlight: Alex Ibanez
• Harvest Of The Month: Salad Greens

• Job & career opportunities


Farm 2 School Spotlight: Stehly Farms Organics

Strawberries from Stehly Farms Organics

We began working with Valley Center-based
Stehly Farms Organics during the 2022-23 school year and are thrilled to continue having them as a partner. In fact, the Salad Greens for our January Harvest of the Month classes come directly from Stehly. 


For brothers Noel and Jerome Stehly, farming is in their blood, and they are passionate about their work and raising the profile of farmers, especially here in San Diego County.


As for what it means to Noel and his family to have local schools serve the food they grow? “Just the ability to get kids to eat healthy food makes a difference in their lives. A lot of kids aren’t doing that.”

Read our full story about Stehly Farms Organics here. We’re certain you’ll be thrilled to learn more about the amazing, locally grown, organic foods available from WaveCrest Cafe.



Meet Our Team: Alex Ibanez

As anyone at Rancho Minerva Middle School knows, a smile from Alex Ibanez will brighten your day and lift you up. Alex leads a fantastic team that cares for each and every student on campus, serving hundreds of meals each day in a tight window of time.


Alex and her team are not just efficient, but they work hard to make the WaveCrest Cafe experience special for students. Meal times are some of the only times during the day that students have to socialize in an environment less structured than the classroom. That makes for a unique atmosphere that has not only nutritional value but also a needed chance to meet students’ social-emotional needs through a friendly and welcoming environment.


Alex is an impressive leader and we’re grateful for all that she brings to our team and our VUSD community each day. And now you can learn a few more things about Alex.



Favorite Hobbies: Walking and gardening

Favorite TV/Binge Watching: House makeovers

Favorite Music (Bands/Singers): Cumbias, Oldies

Favorite WaveCrest Entree: Cesar Salad

Favorite thing about working at WaveCrest Cafe? Interacting with the students, I love my job and my WaveCrest family.



Harvest of the Month: Salad Greens

Bibb lettuce for Harvest of the Month

The featured item for January is salad greens! Salad greens consist of hundreds of varieties of different lettuce, which is part of the sunflower family. Initially, a lettuce plant will have a short stem called a rosette. When it blooms, the rosette lengthens and branches, producing several flower heads that look similar to dandelions (or sunflowers). 


This process is called bolting. When grown to eat, lettuce is harvested before this bolting process begins. Some varieties, like iceberg, have been specifically cultivated to remove the bitterness from their leaves. These types of lettuce (often called “crispheads”) have a high water content, lighter-colored leaves, and little nutrient value. 


Dark lettuce leaves have more nutrients than lighter-colored leaves. These varieties contain more antioxidants and nutrients. According to the CDC, the four main types of lettuce are butterhead (e.g., Boston, bibb), crisphead (e.g., iceberg), looseleaf (e.g., red leaf, green leaf), and romaine.



More Nutrition Facts About Salad GreensSalad greens in a ceramic bowl on a wood table
One cup of salad greens (generally about two cupped hands-full) provides: 

• An excellent source of vitamin K* (green leaf, red leaf, romaine, butterhead, and iceberg).
An excellent source of vitamin A (green leaf, red leaf, romaine, and butterhead).
• A good source of folate (romaine and butterhead).
• A good source of vitamin C (green leaf).


Champion Sources of Vitamin K*. In addition to salad greens, here are other tasty sources of Vitamin K:

Brussels sprouts
Cooked greens

(*Champion sources provide a good or excellent source of vitamin K (at least 10% Daily Value).


Lettuce Give You Some History
Lettuce originated in or around the Mediterranean basin. It is depicted in Egyptian tomb paintings and written accounts that date back to 79 A.D. which means that salad greens are one of the oldest known vegetables. 


Lettuce was among the first vegetables brought to the New World by explorers. At the start of the 20th century, the Western shipping industry took off, greatly expanding the crop’s popularity and range. The early Western shipping industry relied mostly on New York lettuce. However, a disorder called “brown blight” destroyed numerous early plantings and by 1922, the magnitude was great enough to prompt the USDA to assign a plant breeder, I.C. Jagger, to Southern California to develop disease-resistant cultivars.


Vista High School farming class grows cabbage

The garden at Vista High produces food for the Agriscience & FFA class

Lettuce in California
California leads the nation in production of leaf lettuce, head lettuce, and romaine lettuce. 


• Accounting for all varieties, lettuce was California’s seventh largest commodity for the period of 2006-2008. 

• In addition to the four main varieties (butterhead, romaine, red and green leaf), other California-grown varieties include bok choy, bibb lettuce, cilantro, endive, escarole, iceberg lettuce, Italian parsley, kale, Napa cabbage, parsley, radicchio, and green and red cabbage. 

• The counties of Monterey, Imperial, Fresno, San Benito, and Santa Barbara account for the highest percentage of California’s lettuce production.


Our Harvest of the Month salad greens are coming from Stehly Farms Organics. Read more about them in our Farm 2 School Feature.


Salad Greens Harvest of the Month family newsletter in EnglishHarvest of the Month Resources
Learn more about salad greens with your class during a Harvest of the Month activity. You can download our Harvest of the Month resources for families here


Harvest of the Month is available for any classroom that wants to participate. 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, email Gabi Tinsley.




Menu Spotlight: Asian Chicken Salad OR Asian Veggie Salad


asian chicken salad


These delicious salads are available every day at our middle and high schools. Diced Pears, protein-packed edamame, and sunflower seeds sit atop a blend of green and red shredded cabbage, romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, and diced cilantro. 


Select the Asian Chicken Salad if you want tender grilled chicken in the mix as well. Top off the salad with the zesty sesame dressing for a delicious and healthy entree!


Keep building your plate with a selection of even more fruits and veggies coming straight from local California farms as part of our commitment to Farm 2 School.


Be sure to check your school’s menu for the full selection of items and your daily favorites.

*** Menus are subject to change based on ingredient availability and staffing needs.


Menu Survey Results Overview


Thank you to the more than 900 people who participated in our fall menu survey. These surveys are an invaluable resource for us to hear feedback from students, staff, and families about the food we serve and the ways we continue to innovate and improve in what we do.


As you can imagine there are a wide variety of responses. 


Most/Least Favorite Entrees
This is a category that showcases the diversity of tastes among our entire student and staff population. It’s also why we work to provide multiple options for every meal; no two peoples’ taste buds are the same, so new and different items are an important part of our work.


Elementary Schools


Elementary Breakfast Faves - Fall 2023• The top three favorite breakfast entrees for elementary school students were:  Pizza Toast; Bagel & Cream Cheese; Waffle


• On the other side of the spectrum, the three least-favorite items were: Bacon Breakfast Burrito; Sausage Breakfast Burrito; English Muffin w/ Pork Sausage


Elementary Lunch Faves - Fall 2023• For lunch, our elementary students’ favorite items were: Orange Chicken & Rice; Popcorn Chicken Bites; Chicken Tamale & Seeds


• The least favorite lunch items were: Mac & Cheese; Bean & Cheese Pupusa; Turkey & Cheese Sub



Middle & High Schools

Mid-High Breakfast Faves - Fall 2023• The top three favorite breakfast entrees for our middle and high school students were: Pizza Toast; Benefit Bar; Pan Dulce


• The three least-favorite items were: English Muffin w/ Pork Sausage; Corn Chex; Sausage Breakfast Burrito


Mid-High Lunch Faves - Fall 2023• The top items for lunch with middle and high schoolers were: Orange Chicken & Rice; WaveCrest Pepperoni Pizza; Hot & Spicy Chicken Tenders


• The least favorite lunch items were: Spicy Black Bean Burger; Bean & Cheese Pupusa; Bento Box



Why We Have Options: With our middle and high school respondents, it is worth pointing out that some of the items listed as least favorite, like the Bean & Cheese Pupusa, also rank high on the list of favorites, proving that our tastes are diverse and can change throughout our lives.


This is just one example of why we offer multiple options each day and try to design our menus to meet a wide range of taste and texture preferences.


What You Knew About Us
We always ask a series of questions about our program to see how our communication is working. 


Elementary Staff
Elementary Staff Knowledge Fall 2023We were thrilled to see a high level of awareness for our messages with the staff of elementary schools. 


• 67% of responding staff knew we had purchased over 160 tons of local California foods last school year.


• A whopping 91% knew that all of our elementary schools feature salad bars with fresh, seasonal foods.


• 61% were aware of our new protein-rich breakfast items.


Elementary Parents & Families
Elementary Families Knowledge Fall 2023While the percentage of families that knew about those 160+ tons of local California foods was lower than the staff (44%), we knew that that was a very specific piece of information.


But to see 68% know about our salad bars in all elementary schools was encouraging, and leads us to believe that our Farm to School program awareness is still strong.


48% of adults responding were aware of our new protein-rich breakfast entrees.


Middle & High School Staff
MidHigh Staff Knowledge Fall 2023• 46% of staff responding were aware of our 160+ tons of local California foods last year.


• 71% knew that we feature fresh, seasonal foods at all schools


• 51% were aware of our protein-rich breakfast options


Middle & High School Parents & Families
MidHigh Family Knowledge Fall 2023• 47% were aware of our 160+ tons of local California foods last year.


• 73% knew that we feature fresh, seasonal foods at all schools.


• 53% of adults responding were aware of our new protein-rich breakfast entrees.


What You’d Like To See
As with most and least favorite entrees, this feedback showcases a wide range of opinions, tastes, and desires. We can tell you that every menu that has waffles offered for breakfast will result in survey requests for pancakes instead of waffles, and this was no different.


All of our menus start with the USDA guidelines, and then we ramp things up. WaveCrest Cafe meals are protein-rich, low in fat and sodium, and feature whole grains because whole grains deliver 3x more nutrients than enriched grains.


We appreciate everyone who took the time to offer your feedback as we continually strive to serve tasty, nutritious meals with fresh, seasonal, local California foods. Stay tuned for our Winter survey coming in March.


High School Surveys Coming in January

WaveCrest High School Surveys QR Codes


In order to gain more immediate feedback on our entrees, we will be making a short, 2-question survey available at our five high school sites. Students can access the survey by QR code and will be asked to rate their entree on a scale of 1-5 and share which entree they tried.


We appreciate everyone who participates in sharing your feedback.




School nutrition is an extremely rewarding job. You can be part of the nation’s largest restaurant group, serving tasty and nutritious meals to our children each and every day. What’s more, you’ll meet amazing people who are skilled, dedicated, and passionate about their roles.


Our team has the unique opportunity to interact with almost every student, every day. Those interactions make a big difference in our kids’ lives and lead to long-lasting and meaningful friendships.


See all of our available positions here: https://wavecrestcafe.com/employment-opportunities/




No cost for student meals at WaveCrest Cafe in the 2023-24 school year


California is one of seven states across the country that has made school meals available at no cost to all students! In addition to providing fresh, healthy, delicious foods to our students, there is no paperwork required.

*** 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 meeting the demand.




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.



Solana Center Workshops – Rolling Dates
The Solana Center hosts a variety of workshops and lessons across San Diego County, with topics including composting, raising backyard chickens, green living, and water-wise gardening. Check out their events calendar 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.



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(C) 2023 WaveCrest Cafe / Vista Unified School District
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Esta institución es un proveedor de igualdad de oportunidades.