County of Marin - News Releases - Healthy Foods in Schools

For Immediate Release
October 23, 2017

Bounty for the County: Students Eating Healthier

Collaboration results in fresh local produce available in school cafeterias

San Rafael, CA – Summer has turned into fall, and students in San Rafael and Novato have noticed a big change in what’s offered in their school cafeterias. A new initiative is bringing locally sourced produce to their plates this harvest season.

Lettuce is shown growing in the garden at San Pedro School in San Rafael.The San Pedro School garden in San Rafael, part of the Farm-to-Student Collaborative in Marin County, is thriving. (Photo courtesy San Rafael City Schools).
The Farm-To-Student Collaborative Program is a local sourcing and procurement partnership that makes it possible for schools to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers and their very own school gardens. According to the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Marin is one of the first counties in California to orchestrate a buying collaborative involving its largest school districts.

Supported by the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the ad-hoc collaborative includes San Rafael City Schools, Novato Unified School District, Marin-Sonoma Produce, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the SF-Marin Food Bank, University of California Cooperative Extension, Zero Waste Marin, and Sanzuma. 

This summer, school districts involved in the pilot program focused on purchasing three crops – tomatoes, apples and cucumbers. San Rafael City Schools purchased 1,401 pounds of local produce including fruit and vegetables from their own San Pedro Elementary School garden. A total of 1,734 pounds of produce was sourced locally within the first month of school. Some of the regional farms involved in the program are Gabriel Farms, Walker Creek Farms, Olsen Farms and San Rafael City Schools’ San Pedro School Garden. Each season a new crop of fruits and vegetables will be identified for sourcing locally.

Marin HHS serves as the support agency among the partners. The Farm-to-Student program was started as part of HHS’ Healthy Eating Active Living initiative and the Champions for Change School Nutrition Wellness initiative.

The collaborative’s goals are to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students, promote school gardens, increase participation in the school meal program and increase school districts’ purchase of fresh, local, organic produce for the school meal program.  

“It’s more than just buying locally,” said Reba Meigs, Public Health Program Manager with Marin HHS. “It’s about providing fresh healthy meals to students. First purchases went very well this summer and all partners were very happy. We are excited to be working together on these goals.” 

Rita Kesler, Director of Food Services for San Rafael City Schools, said her district is providing local organic fruits and vegetables at every opportunity for daily salad bars. “We are seeing an increase in consumption as well as a decrease in salad bar leftovers,” Kesler said. “The local organic cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from Olson Farms have been a huge hit along with the apples from Walker Creek and Asian pears from Gabriel Farms.”

In the past year Sanzuma has turned a fallow school garden into a thriving school farm that is producing 60 pounds of fresh, organic produce a week for students of San Rafael City Schools. “All of this is being grown on .12 of an acre with the help of San Pedro students," Sanzuma’s Lori Davis said.

The Novato Unified School district is making a significant effort to offer more locally grown, organic, seasonal, produce in the school meal program, said Food and Nutrition Services Director Miguel Villarreal. “This school year we have already doubled the amount of cucumbers we are purchasing, which are now both local and organic,” he said.

North Bay Children's Center prepares daily healthy meals and snacks for 100 pre-kindergarten children at its Novato campus. Collaborations such as that will increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables allowing it to expand its menu to include more garden-fresh produce.

Contact Marin HHS’ Reba Meigs at for more information about how a school district or local farm can join the efforts.


Reba Meigs
Program Manager
Health and Human Services

1600 Los Gamos Drive
Suite 350
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3055
Email: Reba Meigs
Marin HHS website