Bayer, Nature’s Reward, and United Fresh Start Foundation Celebrate National School Lunch Week; Industry Members Comment
SALINAS, CA - Offering versatility of flavor, texture, and usage, broccoli should be a welcome addition to any shopping cart. Promoting the category for National School Lunch Week, which took place this week, Bayer has partnered with Nature’s Reward and the United Fresh Start Foundation to make Bayer’s High Rise™ Broccoli available to students in the Monterey Peninsula and Pajaro Valley Unified School Districts in California.
“Broc-Stars started as an idea we had when we were out in the field looking at our High Rise™ Broccoli series,” said Jenny Maloney, Strategic Accounts Manager, Bayer, explaining that stems were cut into half-inch rounds, or “stars,” to kick off a new Broc-Stars kids initiative. “The broccoli stems are often overlooked, but our variety has a longer stem to help with harvest and other challenges farmers face. At the same time, it tastes amazing, and we thought this could be a real hit with young school children. The idea of cutting the sweet-tasting stem into easy-to-eat, half-inch rounds, or really ‘stars’ given the stem’s shape, made us think this could be a hit with kids, and the idea of Broc-Stars was born.”
According to a press release, the students were offered tasting samples during lunch, participated in a culinary demo, and students at Pajaro’s elementary school sampled the broccoli as a midday snack.
Bayer serves as a member of the United Fresh Start Foundation’s Board of Trustees, participating on the committee that provides guidance on new avenues to increase children’s access to fresh produce.
“Having the support of companies like Bayer to encourage healthy eating habits for the next generation of produce consumers is instrumental,” said Andrew Marshall, Director of Foodservice and Foundation Partnerships at United Fresh. “We’re pleased to have helped facilitate this connection and look forward to creating additional opportunities for produce companies to collaborate with school foodservice programs and their communities.”
In addition to this week’s collaboration, Bayer has committed $20,000 to the United Fresh Start Foundation to support this mission. Bayer also sponsored virtual networking and education sessions for school nutrition professionals to connect with colleagues and industry suppliers, sharing best practices and strategies for sourcing, serving, and promoting fresh produce to students at school.
“Growing in California continues to be a challenge, but we were able to grow a great quality product that not only allows for ease of harvest, but also has a unique, sweet-tasting stem. As a part of this community, we are always looking for ways to give back, while at the same time promoting fruit and vegetable consumption at schools,” said Mark Mason, Fertility and Pest Control Manager at Nature’s Reward, which grew the broccoli supplied to students.
Bayer’s High Rise broccoli series offers supply chain-wide benefits and delivers cleaner stems with fewer large leaves and visible crowns that are firm and heavy.
With uniform crown maturity, competitive yield potential, and consistent product quality, the High Rise series can mean fewer harvest passes and is also well-suited for time-saving machine harvesting. That means growers could significantly reduce their field labor. And, the series meets today’s market demands for broccoli crowns, bunches, and florets.
“Broccoli is a mainstay on our menu, and we’re always looking for new ways to offer and promote broccoli and other dark green vegetables to our students,” said Linda Liu, Registered Dietician and Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. “The Broc-Stars are a fun, new way to eat broccoli by focusing on the stem.”
Bayer’s commitment to sustainability extends to fighting food insecurity and encouraging healthier food choices for a happier and well-educated community. This year’s National School Lunch Week is an important opportunity to highlight the hard work and dedication of school nutrition professionals who have continued to make fresh produce available to students, despite the continuing challenges of the pandemic.
“This past summer we had the chance to participate in the produce industry’s foodservice conference, right here in our backyard, and that was a wonderful, eye-opening experience,” said Micha James, Nutrition Services Director at the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. “We are interested in local collaborations that can help our students enjoy fresh vegetables, as well as helping [the] industry to understand how schools can be partners to expose children to fresh produce.”
The effort to meet food insecurity with fresh produce education continues, so stick with us as we cover the latest.