GIBSONIA — Farmers, food suppliers and representatives from schools, companies and organizations across the state gathered at Chatham University's Eden Hall campus Wednesday for a chance to connect and learn from one another about the latest school food issues and opportunities.
The Regional School Food Summit presented by the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council and Penn State Center Pittsburgh ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and brought food producers, purchasers and educators together to learn and build relationships.
Jacqueline Pfeiffer, South Butler County School District board member, said she came to learn more about the latest resources and opportunities to best provide nutritional and cost-effective food for students.
Pfeiffer mentioned a speaker earlier that morning describing garden towers as a space-effective way to grow produce. These towers grow fruits and vegetables vertically and only take up a few square feet to do the work that would otherwise require a much larger plot.
She said attendees like her are always looking for opportunities to best serve their students and school districts.
“It's interesting because everyone has the same concerns: time, cost, staffing and quality,” she said. “And getting something they (students) will eat.”
That can be a challenge she said, as many students prefer the comfort of french fries to healthier alternatives.
Pfeiffer said schools are working to educate students on the importance of eating healthier meals throughout the day, and seeing some success with certain foods.
“The younger kids like yogurt a lot,” she said. “They always like breakfast for lunch.”
As the morning went on, attendees met with one another and heard from speakers about school-to-farm partnerships, financing school food initiatives and more.
Dawn Plummer, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council executive director, said the council started the summit to bring educators, producers and purchasers together to learn from one another.
Plummer said she hopes this to be the first of what becomes an annual event.
For more information about the policy council, visit www.pittsburghfoodpolicy.org.