Path Home Shows 2010 Show Archive October 2010 Show 1043 Farm to School Helping Tulsa Students Eat Healthy

Farm to School Helping Tulsa Students Eat Healthy

In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled. Everything from inactivity to high-fat foods is behind the trend, but work is under way to change the way young people eat.
Farm to School Helping Tulsa Students Eat Healthy

Farm to School Program

For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Farm to School Program
Oklahoma Department of Agriculture
Tulsa Public Schools
Booker T. Washington School--Tulsa Public Schools

Show Dates

Show 1043: Farm to School - Tulsa ISD

Air date: October 24, 2010



Rob McClendon: Well, in the past 30 years, childhood obesity has tripled. Everything from inactivity to high-fat foods are behind this trend, but work is under way to change the way young people eat. And it’s not easy. At Tulsa Public Schools, students are guaranteed fresh fruits and vegetables on every plate; the real trick now is getting the students to eat them.

It’s lunch time at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa.

[Noise in the lunchroom]

Female Student: Thank you very much.

Rob: Quite a bit different than what you might expect.

Male Student Eric: They’ve got like, low-fat milk, they’ve got smoothies, healthy milk, water; you can eat pretty healthy here.

Rob: And that’s by design.

Steve Terry: It is hugely different from when you and I went to school.

Rob: Steve Terry is the director of child nutrition for Tulsa Public Schools.

Steve: In the environment of so much processed foods, we’re going back to the basics of fresh foods, home-cooking, home-style, but yet not at the quantities, you know, of like what Grandma used to make, those types of things. And getting the students and the kids to realize that it’s just as easy to peel an orange as it is to open up a bag of chips.

Rob: But it’s not always easy. Hollie Jones manages the school cafeteria.

Hollie Jones: Well, this year has been hard because they’re so used to having fried foods, so gradually before we can get ’em to try anything we try to put little samples out and let ‘em taste it first. You know, if you let ’em try it before they buy it, they’re happier customers and if they like it and they tell somebody else, you’ve already won over somebody else, and you didn’t even have to do anything, so.

Rob: Gone are the deep-fat fryers, replaced by a fresh fruit and vegetable bar, much of it locally grown.

Female Student Tekeyah: It is very important for it to be fresh because like, if it was from California, and we got it in Oklahoma it wouldn’t be that fresh. And if we got if from Oklahoma it would still have like the freshness of it because it wouldn’t take that long to get here, you know. We grow it here.

Rob: And that is exactly what students in cafeterias across the school district can have with every meal: all the fresh fruit and veggies they can eat.

Hollie: They love it. We go through mountains of fresh fruit, vegetables, canned vegetables. It doesn’t matter; if you put it on there, they’re gonna eat it.

Steve: There’s always six different items on there, six different types of fruits and vegetables, whether that’s local-grown cantaloupe, local-grown watermelon or a salad mix. And obviously we use ranch dressing as a, as a beverage here, but it is a low-fat ranch dressing that we do make.

Rob: Now while the work going on in the high schools is extremely important, the real battleground for childhood obesity is here in the elementary schools. When a child learns to eat at 6, 7 or 8, vegetables and fruits, they often times will eat them the rest of their lives.

[Sounds of children]

It’s Farm to School Day at Tulsa Public Schools. A biannual event that lets school children learn where their food comes from.

Corbin Anderson: Oh it’s absolutely vital. These, these young kids are kinda where it all starts as far as gettin’ some healthy eating habits established. It starts with our elementary school kids, these are fourth- and fifth-graders that are out here now. So this is one of our last, last major changes to catch them before they get off to middle school and get too cool to listen to a lot of folks. So, you know, the elementary kids are really engaged and paying lots of attention to everything we’ve got goin’ on, so it’s really important to provide them with the opportunity to see kinda where agriculture really starts.

[Talking in lunchroom]

Female Voice: What kind do you want?

Rob: And amid all the fun there are plenty of lessons, too, as well as some food some of the students are eating for the first time. What do you think about what you’re eating right now?

Students: Yummy! Yummy! It’s good! Delicious!

Rob: Kris Kirby coordinates Oklahoma’s Farm to School Program.

Kris Kirby: Well we’re really just trying to encourage the kids, No. 1, to know where their food comes from, that it comes from our local farms, from grocery stores, from our farmers markets, and then also, how to eat it, how to prepare it in a very healthy way, very simple healthy way, and then taste test it.

Steve: We’re fighting, you know, the big chains, but at the end of the day, we’re feeding these kids 180 days out of the year, two meals a day, so we have the opportunity to put the right foods in front of ‘em.


Rob McClendon: Well, on an average day, Tulsa Public Schools will serve more meals than all the McDonald’s in the state combined. And they’re not alone in serving a healthier fare. Since mid-August Oklahoma watermelons, cantaloupe and other locally produced foods have been served in at least 52 school districts and three universities across the state. Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach says more locally grown foods are being served in school lunches.

Terry Peach: I think this is a pattern that most of education in Oklahoma should follow because we have great choices for students. We have fresh fruits and vegetables here, as you can see over this salad bar to our left, that students can go back time after time. This was all locally grown by one of our growers in the state of Oklahoma. They have healthy choices. For example, they have fresh chicken nuggets, but they also have chicken planks, so they have either the processed or the fresh. So I think this, Tulsa Public Schools, through Steve’s management here is a pattern that maybe all the school systems in the state of Oklahoma should follow. I think it’s right in the pattern that the Department of Ag has been talking about over the last several years, that locally grown is better nutrition, a great economic engine for the state of Oklahoma.

Rob: If you’d like see how other schools around the state are working to put more fresh fruit and vegetables in student diets, just head to our website at and click on value added.