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USDA Director and State Superintendent visit AUHSD Food Services at Magnolia High School

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and California Department of Education (CDE) will be visiting Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) Food Services and Magnolia Agriscience Community Center (MACC) on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at Magnolia High School. Dr. Sara Bleich (Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service), Tony Thurmond (State Superintendent of Public Instruction), and Michael Matsuda (AUHSD Superintendent) will be speaking on food and nutrition services, farm to school programs, food deserts, and food as medicine during the event and tour the MACC, along with other members of the USDA, CDE, AUHSD, and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

During the event there will be a discussion, led by AUHSD Food Services Director Orlando Griego and AUHSD Food Services Assistant Director Tiffanie Bas, regarding the importance and impact of the California Universal Meals Mandate that ensures all students have access to breakfast and lunch each school day at no charge. AUHSD was recently awarded the California Farm to School Incubator grant, which exceeds $360,000. The grant will allow AUHSD Food Services to provide more California grown fresh produce to students and educate students about the benefits of consuming locally grown produce.

The MACC has transformed 2.5 acres of undeveloped land on Magnolia High School’s campus into a school-based community farm aimed to alleviate local food insecurity. It serves as a hub for nutrition, providing much-needed fresh produce for the surrounding community, and expanding learning and career-training opportunities for students and community members on health, nutrition, and regenerative/sustainable agriculture practices.

At a campus like Magnolia High School where 89% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches, the Anaheim Union High School District thinks the MACC will make the school day better by producing fresh fruits and vegetables that can be turned into tasty meals in the cafeteria. AUHSD Food Servces has committed to purchasing produce from the MACC and has included a variety of lettuce, green onions, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, broccoli, and strawberries that are incorporated into salad bars, recipes, and menus at Magnolia High School with future plans to expand at other sites during the 2022-2023 school year.

AUHSD Superintendent Michael Matsuda describes the MACC as a transformative project that will change the landscape in Anaheim: “it is the first of its kind in the nation designed to be an urban agriscience science laboratory–in effect, an urban farm, that is going to transform the community from a food desert to a food and healthcare oasis.” This is a District-wide project, Superintendent Matsuda explains, that “involves 5-6 schools in year 1 and teachers across the curriculum from science, to English, to health, to math, and have students learn about food deserts through data analytics and census data and comparing it over time in terms of childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.”

With the data they find, students will help fill those nutritional gaps by growing fruits and vegetables, some of which will go to District cafeterias and some of which can be taken home by students or shared with the community. In addition, the District plans to get families and the community involved by offering cooking classes, giving out student-created home gardening kits, and offering boxes of fresh produce picked weekly that includes recipe cards created by Magnolia students.

The MACC is part of the Anaheim Union High School District’s plan to create community schools across AUHSD, which the District defines as a safe place at the heart of a community where students, staff, and families are connected and work together to expand opportunities and address the needs of the whole child so that all students can thrive and realize their unlimited potential. AUHSD has been funded $24 million for community schools at 13 sites, proportionally the most in the state of California.

Learn more below:
Magnolia Agriscience Community Center Introduction Video

UCI School of Education: “Tilling A Social and Cultural Shift”

NCSE: “Teach about climate change and injustice to position students as agents of change”

OC Register Article: Ambitious new agriculture program launches at Anaheim’s Magnolia High School

OC Register Article: Anaheim’s Magnolia High shows off blooming agriculture program

This article was released by the Anaheim Union High School District.