Over 350 students and staff will be served made-to-order burrito bowls featuring fresh herbs and greens grown at the school.
(Harrison, Oh.) - J.T.M. Food Group, a national leader in creating healthy, fully-cooked menu solutions for the K-12 and foodservice industries, is proud to sponsor its second Tower-to-Tray Harvest Event at South Dearborn Middle School in Aurora, Indiana on April 27, 2023. That day, over 350 students and staff will be served a special school lunch that will feature greens and herbs grown on two aeroponic gardening systems at the school.
The list of foods grown from seed to harvest in the school cafeteria include cilantro, parsley, chives, Bibb lettuce, oregano, and a variety of microgreens. The two aeroponic gardening systems are located right in the cafeteria at South Dearborn Middle School. SAE students from the Agriculture Program, including high school students Kori Cornett and Makayla Hiltenbeitel, planted the seeds and are checking on the plants weekly. They were trained by Colleen Perfect, former science teacher and avid indoor aeroponic gardener, regarding how to plant the seeds and how to care for the plants being grown on Tower Gardens for this event. Kori and Makayla are working with their teacher, Melissa Andrew, to care for 80+ plants over an 8-week period in preparation for this Harvest Event, expected to feed over 350 people.
These fresh greens and herbs will be featured in the menu options on the day of the Harvest Event. Burrito bowls will be the main course. Students will have the option to “build-their-own” bowl, with the following options: brown rice or whole grain tortillas, J.T.M. taco filling or 3-bean chili, pineapple salsa, pico de gallo, bibb lettuce, extra vegetables or fruit and topped with their choice of sauces, including a new reduced sodium queso blanco sauce from J.T.M. The pico de gallo, whole grain brown rice and pineapple salsa will include the herbs grown at school.
Recap on the First Harvest Event in 2019 and Planning for the Second Big Harvest Event
In November 2019, the aeroponic gardening systems at South Dearborn Middle School, sponsored by J.T.M. Food Group, were used to grow bok choy for the school’s first ever Harvest Event. The bok choy grown at school was incorporated in a stir-fry dish served at both school lunches. On that day, of all the middle school students who ate school lunch, less than 5% chose the pizza option. Therefore, over 95% of middle school students who ate school lunch that day chose the stir-fry option featuring bok choy grown right there at school. Students also answered anonymous surveys on their lunch tables. The results showed 87% of student responses stated it was “very exciting” or a “good idea” to have the opportunity to eat foods grown at school. Learn more.
After this successful Harvest Event in 2019, Amy Powell, Cafeteria Manager at South Dearborn Middle School, was eager to do it again. J.T.M. was also excited to bring the Tower to Tray program back to life now that school food service programs are regaining some sense of normalcy after a few hard years of dealing with the ripple effects from COVID-19. In addition to sponsoring aeroponic gardening systems, J.T.M. provides menu and recipe development and trains cafeteria staff leading up to the event. They also provide educational tools in the cafeteria space to help communicate to the students what is growing and how it will be used in their menu options during school lunch.
The planning team from 2019 came together again in preparation for this event happening on April 27. Former science teacher and avid indoor aeroponic gardener, Colleen Perfect, collaborated with Amy McAdams and Chef Irma Gonzales from J.T.M. Food Group to get the plans in place for a fresh take on this “Tower-to-Tray” Harvest Event, incorporating a wider variety of greens and herbs grown at school. The term “Tower-to-Tray” comes from the name of the aeroponic gardening systems. Tower Garden is the gardening system being used and the fresh food grown on both towers will go straight from the towers to the students’ lunch trays. Amy Powell, South Dearborn Middle School Cafeteria Manager, and Jessica Peak, Food Service Director and Nurse at South Dearborn Schools, are both excited about this opportunity for their school. Students will be positively impacted by seeing the fresh foods growing in their cafeteria and getting to try new fresh food options at lunch on the day of the Harvest Event.
For more information about the event, please contact Amy McAdams at email@example.com.