AISD’s New Garden to Café Program Allows School Garden Produce to be Served in School Meals

The Austin Independent School District (AISD) is starting off the school year with an exciting policy change that will impact students’ connection to healthy, local food. With the leadership of the AISD Nutrition and Food Services Director, Anneliese Tanner, and the input of the Austin Area School Garden Collaborative (AASGC) Harvest Action Team, AISD schools may now serve produce harvested from the school garden in school meals as part of a new Garden to Café Program. Schools must first submit a Garden to Café Conditional Approval Form that will serve as an agreement between the school principal, garden leader, and AISD to ensure that food safety protocol and standards are followed in order to protect public health.

Bianca Bidiuc Peterson, SFC’s Grow Local School Garden Manager, serves on AASGC and the Harvest Action Team; “By creating a formal process for school garden produce to be served in school meals, AISD is setting an important example for schools in Central Texas and statewide. This policy change will increase students’ access to healthy, locally grown foods and further integrate the school garden into the campus as a teaching tool. This will motivate students to not only grow healthy food but make long-term healthy choices.”

If you're an AISD school garden leader, download the Garden to Café Approval form below and meet with your principal to complete and submit the form to AISD Nutrition and Food Services. You will also need the Garden to Café Program Garden Harvest Receipt (see below).

Anneliese Tanner and the Harvest Action Team are also working on a Harvest Guide to provide “clear guidance and standards to K-12 school garden programs and communities on various options for distributing the harvest from school gardens in the Austin area that can be used as a statewide model.” Harvest distribution methods include on-site consumption, direct marketing, and donation.

We applaud this policy change and encourage other school districts to follow AISD’s example. If you would like to get involved with the Austin Area School Garden Collaborative, check out the AASGC website for more information or email Bianca@sustainablefoodcenter.org.