Plan a Farm to Summer Menu
Integrating fresh California agricultural products into summer meals programs increases meal quality. Many fresh California fruits and vegetables — including stone fruit, melons, snap peas, strawberries, and tomatoes — are at their peak flavor and value during the summer months. With clever menu planning, you can take full advantage of seasonal savings when this healthy and delicious produce is at its most plentiful.
Tips for increasing fresh, local produce in your summer meals:
Establish relationships with local farmers. Identify local farmers and establish direct relationships several months in advance of when you will be serving summer meals. Determine what produce they grow and invite them to contact you when harvests become available.
Be flexible with menu planning. Design menus that allow fruit and vegetable components to shift according to farmers’ availability of crops. Peaches not ripe yet? Substitute strawberries in your fruit salad instead. Consider offering whole fruit. It’s a useful strategy, because switching whole fruits does not affect your meal preparation or ingredient lists.
Partner with food hubs. The USDA hosts a Food Hub Directory with local businesses that provide a range of services to local growers and producers, including aggregation and distribution assistance to markets such as schools. Use this resource to search by zip code and find food hubs in your area that can source local ingredients.
Use a local procurement guide. Ask your distributor for a list of California-grown produce to help guide your purchases of summer meals ingredients. You can also reference a seasonal produce calendar to drive your recipes and determine which produce might be available for the best prices. Calendars are often available from local nonprofit organizations that support small farmers and farmers markets.