Since its inception in 2008, LiveWell has worked closely with hundreds of partners in every region of the state. Through these collaborative efforts, a tremendous amount has been learned; LiveWell’s mission has evolved from building public awareness for the value of healthy lifestyles to a focus on removing the barriers that prevent access to healthy eating and active living for low-income communities and people of color.

Each month during this 10th Anniversary year, we will share a “10 for 10” list to highlight our partners and LiveWell’s role in advancing the ongoing evolution of this movement.

This month, we highlight 10 ways the School Food Initiative (SFI) has successfully worked with many of Colorado’s school districts to provide nourishing meals to students.

1) In the second year of partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, SFI recently wrapped up “Cooking up Healthy Options with Plants” programming for culinary professionals who work in child care centers. These CHOP trainings highlight the basic culinary skills needed to implement a from-scratch menu while also highlighting garden fresh produce.

2) SFI is thrilled to again partner with the Colorado Department of Education to provide Fundamentals of Menu Planning trainings across the state, benefitting all of Colorado’s unique school districts. Come see us this year in a location nearest you: Lamar, Calhan, Durango and Fort Morgan!

3) New student surveys were utilized in Morgan County School District Re-3 to gauge interest in school meals and to give students an opportunity to vote on new, from-scratch menu items. A follow-up survey showed that there was a positive increase in the overall perception of the school meal program, and the winning meals from the surveys have been successfully rolled out to all schools.

4) In Moffat Consolidated School District #2, SFI is participating in a district-wide cooking class where students can learn how to apply the from-scratch meal methods at home. Additionally, the middle and high school students will learn how to make their own salsa—a fresher and cheaper alternative to store bought.

5) SFI has helped to reformulate Centennial School District’s homemade bread recipe to meet USDA guidelines while improving taste. Students love the new bread (and can’t believe it is whole wheat)! Simple adjustments like this can increase buy-in for scratch-made products and show the students that the school is all ears.

6) Over 10 new recipes have been introduced in Idalia School District since SFI’s initial survey back in 2016. Dishes include the very popular shredded pork tacos to classics like shepherd’s pie. New proteins such as chicken breasts and beef eye of round are now making regular appearances, and kitchen confidence to apply new skills and introduce new recipes is high.

7)The SFI operations assessment continues to spur great change in Thompson School District. For example, a shift to a centralized kitchen model for vegetable production has helped create efficient and colorful salad bars. This new, streamlined model also supports food service staff in implementation for years to come.

8) In Ouray School District, SFI has partnered with EPA Region 8 to highlight all the work being done to minimize food waste. A recent site visit resulted in direct recognition by the national EPA administration! Since their partnership with SFI and the implementation of a from-scratch menu, they have increased their lunch sales revenue by 87.6%.

9) In East Grand School District, SFI helped roll out brand new salad bars to their elementary schools. Watching students get excited about choosing colorful fruits and vegetables has been the greatest reward. The school community and staff have all played a critical role in helping SFI build excitement for the salad bars (and teaching them how to use it).

10) In a new partnership with St. Vrain Valley School District, SFI is providing additional culinary training to food service staff to reinforce the importance of serving fruits & vegetables alongside freshly prepared meals to the student body. Post training, participants have noted that they feel better prepared for scratch production! This investment in professional development also highlights the value the district has for their dedicated Food & Nutrition Services Department.

To find out more about the School Food Initiative or to support its efforts, click here.