CPS nominated for national food program award


Nikol Slatinska

Columbia Public Schools (CPS) is up for the One in a Melon award, which is run by the United States Department of Agriculture. The result of which school district will be nationally recognized for its effort to provide local produce for students will be announced in May.
CPS nutrition services Director Laina Fullum would also like to get more local attention to the program and thinks the award would achieve that.
[CPS is] part of a farm to school grant and is regularly updated by the USDA on new initiatives and awards,” Fullum said on how she heard about One in a Melon. “It will encourage more participation in requesting, eating and learning about local foods and gardening, which is very scientific.”
Fullum thinks the district deserves the award because it serves local fruits, vegetables and milk in school cafeterias, and the Culinary Arts Department has multiple gardens maintained by students. Sophomore Sam Ventrillo has first-hand experience with this, as he is in RBHS’s Culinary Arts 1 class.
Within the class, we implement local seasonal produce that is available.” Ventrillo said. “In the kitchen, we use produce that isn’t locally grown due to the large amounts of produce that are used constantly in the program, though we definitely try to use more local grown foods.”
He mentioned there are two gardens at the Career Center that culinary uses, including one outside the kitchen where herbs and plants like cherry tomatoes and bell peppers are grown in milk-crates to conserve space. The other garden is larger, and he and other culinary students will be helping maintain it this summer. They grow crops like carrots, bell peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.
Like Ventrillo, senior Asa Linneman has experience with the school’s food-related programs. She is currently taking Greenhouse Productions and has previously taken Exploring Agriculture.
“I think [being recognized] would be a great experience,” Linneman said. “It would be awesome if students could provide their vegetables for the school lunches. I think that is something I would change- that students provide [more of] their own produce for school lunches.”
Not only does Linneman help out with the school gardens, but she has her own at home and sells her produce to neighbors. In Greenhouse Productions, Linneman and her classmates grow crops such as the ones Ventrillo mentioned, as well as flowers that are currently being sold for the Spring Sale.
“I think the local gardening that is implemented in the culinary program is great, and the gardens are relatively new for the career center as the milk crate gardens were built this year,” Ventrillo said. “In the culinary program, local growing is very important and utilized very well, and hopefully will continue to grow.”
Fullum has the same hopes as Ventrillo and Linneman and believes winning One in a Melon can help CPS get there.
“I would like to see more integration of farm to school education,” Fullum said. “The potential is endless.”