Healthy Food Round Table and Snack Program
Part 1: Designing a Community Project
In September 2018, FEEST organized an intergenerational group of community stakeholders called the Healthy Food Round Table (HFRT) Committee. The purpose of the group was to gather community feedback about the barriers youth in White Center face in accessing healthy food in their community and schools. From the community feedback gathered, the group was able to identify cost and distance as the top barriers to accessing fresh produce in White Center. Based on this feedback, the group then identified solutions to increase young people’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The HFRT Committee gathered feedback from over 320 community members who identified schools as the place young people access the majority of their food. From this assessment, the committee found that young people are infrequently eating school lunch due to poor quality and taste of food, limited fresh food available, and little variety in lunch menu items; including a lack of culturally relevant meal options. Upon analyzing this feedback, the HFRT committee envisioned a short term solution of implementing a free CSA-style snack box for students at Evergreen High School (EHS), the most populated school in White Center.
Part 2: Implementing the Snack Box Pilot Project
In September 2019, FEEST launched the Snack Box Pilot Project at Evergreen High School (EHS). Every Monday, all 6th period classes received crates with enough fresh produce and nutritious fruit-based snack bars for each student to have one piece per day. Approximately 40 6th period classrooms, 850-950 students, were served by the Healthy Food Round Table (HFRT) pilot snack program. The snack boxes were created in partnership with Lee’s Produce, who supplied a rotation of fruits including Mandarin oranges, plums, Bartlett pears, Asian pears, persimmons, and apples, which rotated as the seasons changed.
The HFRT Committee gathered feedback from 525 students and teachers after the Snack Box Pilot Project to determine whether the snack boxes increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The feedback gathered from both teachers and students identified that the free snack box program at EHS not only increased youth consumption of produce, but positively impacted students’ ability to learn at school, and positively impacted the culture and community at EHS. After analyzing this feedback, our policy recommendations include:
- Implement weekly CSA-style snack boxes with fresh food items for students at all schools with high Free and Reduced Lunch rates.
- Increase availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at school salad bars to increase participation
- Enroll all eligible schools for Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to make school food free for all students.
- Initiate kitchen renovations and staff training to reestablish scratch cooking in our schools.
Rooted in the feedback our committee received from students and teachers at Evergreen, we found that providing students with fresh, free and delicious food is a key ingredient for student success. When school meals and snacks provided to students are free and fresh, students feel a sense of security, increasing their likelihood to participate, collaborate and be present in the classroom.
In a community like White Center where there is an excessive number of fast food restaurants and gas stations, fresh food is not accessible. Our recommended changes to the school food system will begin to address the disinvestment of low income communities of color by proposing systemic solutions in school food.