Eat Real is excited to announce that Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) is Eat Real Certified! Based in the Watsonville area—known as the salad bowl of California—Pajaro Valley connects with local farmers to bring the abundance of their surroundings to the nearly 20,000 students across their 33 schools.
Collaboration with nonprofit partners such as Eat Real and Life Lab has allowed PVUSD to bring nutrition education, school garden curriculum, and its school meal program together in an impactful and meaningful way. “School meals are vital to our community. We provide nutritious, well balanced meals for students to enjoy with their classmates while taking a break from learning,” says Jeanie Aitken, PVUSD Director of Food and Nutrition Services.
PVUSD serves on average 1.4 million breakfasts and nearly 2 million lunches every school year. The central kitchen prepares meals for all 16 elementary schools, while the middle and high school kitchens have speed scratch capacity in addition to their salad bars. “PVUSD started their Eat Real journey in the ’21-’22 school year,” says Jeanie. “After over a year of making many positive changes to the program, such as reducing the overall amounts of sodium and sugar, sourcing more local ingredients, conducting lots of student taste tests, and promoting garbage separation and composting in our kitchens and cafeterias, we are thrilled to have achieved green tier!”
Following are a few of PVUSD’s major successes through certification:
Menu Variety: PVUSD offers an average of three different fruits and vegetables to students each day. This delicious produce is not only fresh but appealing, with bite-sized portions that make it easier for students to eat. Elementary students at all 16 schools have access to this variety via salad bars in their cafeterias.
Sustainable Sourcing: Taking advantage of their key agricultural location, at least 23% of PVUSD’s produce comes from local and regional farms.
Real Food Education: PVUSD participates in Harvest of Month, helping their students bring nutrition and culinary education home by providing recipes for families to cook and eat together.
The largest district in Santa Cruz County, Pajaro Valley serves a diverse student body; their student population is over 80% Latinx, with many students coming from migrant farmworker communities and relying on school meals. This means that the real and delicious food PVUSD provides goes a long way in making a difference in the lives and health of their students.
Please join us in celebrating Pajaro Valley’s dedication to their students and community in this great accomplishment!
Eat Real’s award-winning K-12 certification program provides Food Service leaders with the framework and support needed to help make their school meal programs not only delicious, but nutritious and planet-sustaining. To achieve green tier certification, school districts need to meet a minimum set of requirements and achieve an overall score of at least 60% or higher, based on an assessment against the 10 Eat Real Standards (see visual for more details).