Selecting fresh fruits and vegetables were on the ‘To Do List’ for over 1400 Oakdale elementary school students over the past week. Food 4 Thought made a return appearance to Oakdale Joint Unified School District, stopping this time at Fair Oaks and Magnolia elementary schools. Cloverland and Sierra View elementary schools were visited in September.
Loren Werth, President of Food 4 Thought, LLC stated he was happy to return to Oakdale schools from his Fresno based company. Werth began traveling to schools statewide in 2008, educating students on farming and fresh fruits and vegetables.
“This year I’m harping on the drought more than anything with the older kids,” the speaker said.
Werth’s company also provides school lunch rooms with fresh California grown fruits each week as part of the Farm to School program.
“We’ve changed the mindset,” he said. “We are getting produce to schools statewide within three days of it being picked.”
Werth noted the value of children getting ‘no sticker’ produce, which has not been processed in the way of washed, waxed and stickered.
Food 4 Thought, LLC began servicing all six Oakdale school sites as well as the OJUSD Central Kitchen in 2014. It’s a relationship Werth attributes to Angie Cazares, OJUSD Manager of Food Service.
“Next week we’ll be delivering persimmons, Fuji and Granny Smith apples, grapes, all from farmers here in California. It will all be picked literally within days of us delivering it to each of your schools,” Werth said.
This year marks the first year Werth has traveled to Oakdale elementary schools for the Farmers Market on Campus presentations. This year he will visit between 70 and 100 elementary and middle schools around the state, educating students.
“We’re really into promoting the farmer,” he said. “I have a passion for kids and educating them on what it takes.
“What they didn’t realize is that produce can go up by 70 percent (in cost) if we don’t have significant rain,” Werth said of the financial lesson he incorporates with his presentation.
Part of the program is to give each student $2 to spend toward varying fresh produce, brought to the site for the 30-minute presentation. Students are given the opportunity to choose based on pricing set by Werth.
“My farmers help me to be able to do this,” he said of the lesson pricing versus market pricing. “They’re giving it (produce) at bare bones cost.”
And, he added, students eat up the program.
“What was really amazing at Fair Oaks,” the speaker said, “was at second and third grade presentations, their ability with math. They were able to do the math in their head to get the most from their two dollars. Highly intelligent young folk. Overall Oakdale schools had very well-mannered students. I travel a lot. I don’t see that in a lot of places.”
Werth hopes to return to Oakdale schools for presentations in the coming school years. Between now and then, he and his staff will continue to make the drive delivering farm fresh fruit to Oakdale and its student body.