HISD to Serve More Homegrown Fruits and Vegetables

Food Services department cultivates relationships with Houston-area farmers

July 05, 2011
HISD Culinary Specialist Brandon Lee (left) and Texas Department of Agriculture Marketing Specialist Edward McGowan inspect produce at Froberg's Farm in Alvin, TX.

HISD is partnering with the Texas Department of Agriculture and local farmers and growers in an effort to serve more homegrown fruits and vegetables in district schools. The partnerships are designed to promote healthful eating and provide an economic boost to family farms in the Houston area.

“Currently, 11 percent of the produce that we are purchasing is locally grown. We would like to bump that up to 25 percent,” HISD Culinary Specialist Brandon Lee explained. He and Texas Department of Agriculture marketing specialist Edward McGowan have been meeting with area farmers to discuss ways to work together and deliver more fresh Texas produce to HISD’s kitchens.

“This is the base. We have to establish relationships first,” Lee said during a trip to Froberg’s Farm in Alvin. The 100-acre property produces more than a dozen different fruits and vegetables, everything from strawberries, tomatoes, and eggplant, to okra, peas, and cabbage. Owner Alfred Froberg said he is excited about the possibility of produce going directly from his fields to HISD schools. The district serves 270,000 meals a day and is rolling out salad bars in some school cafeterias this fall.

Froberg believes the partnerships also have an educational component, helping students to understand that fruits and vegetables aren’t grown in a grocery store aisle. “A science teacher could call up the farmer and say, ‘You’re planting tomatoes. Can we come watch you plant?’ And then three months later, say, ‘Can we come watch you harvest?’”

Chef Lee, who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, would also like to have area farmers visit HISD schools to share their stories with students as part of the district’s new “Harvest of the Month” program. It kicks off in the new school year. HISD chefs will visit schools to prepare a fruit or vegetable in different ways. Students will watch the cooking process and will be able to sample the chefs’ creations.