My name is Ryan Harb and this blog is one that I feel compelled to write at this unique time in my life as a new K-12 school Food Service Director. I came into this job about 4 months ago with an excitement, open mind, and a passion for positively changing our food system. I believe that all students deserve access to healthy, flavorful, and authentic meals that are made from-scratch with local and whole ingredients. Kids especially need these healthy meals each day as they are expected to focus, learn, and be successful both inside and outside of the classroom. School food, therefore, must be appealing, exciting, and delicious!
Seems simple enough, doesn't it? That's what I initially thought, too, and I still believe that in my heart. However, there are many (many!) challenges in the K-12 school food ecosystem that I'm still just learning about while stepping into this role of a K-12 Food Service Director. I've quickly realized that public school food is the "most regulated part of the entire food system." It's going to take some time for me to learn all the in's and out's of what our government allows us to purchase, cook, and serve to students each day. This first year will entail a lot of observation and making small wins wherever possible. The big (exciting!) changes will come over time.
Before going any further, I want to share some of my intentions for this blog. Sometimes I will be blogging about my struggles as a new Director who's working within this highly regulated school food ecosystem. At times I might come across as complaining, although that is certainly not my intent. Rather, I'm trying to show a vulnerable side with this blog, and that's something that many people in my life rarely see.
Most of the other pages on this ARPS Food Services site will focus on the program's successes, because it's my job after all to get our community excited about school food! I already see so many opportunities to make school food both more nutritious and delicious, and I can't wait to share some of those stories, recipes, and meals with you as well!
I'm going to wrap up this first blog entry by sharing with you my goal for the year. I want to share my real life trials and tribulations with all of you readers each month. I'd like to get in a habit of posting at least one new blog entry each week, on average, and the toughest part of that will be finding the time. At the present moment, time is 100% my limiting factor in this job. Today I felt totally overwhelmed trying to get through my piles of vendor invoices, purchase orders, voicemails and e-mails. These are the things that drive me crazy, because they seem so far away from the real work of improving what's on the plates. But these also have to get done in order to build a top notch Child Nutrition Program here in Amherst, MA. The program far from perfect right now, but that will absolutely change over time.
Please consider reading on and following this blog as I navigate this complicated K-12 school food ecosystem. Who knows, maybe you'll get inspired to get involved, send me an e-mail with a question, recipe, suggestion, or positive note. I'm open to all of it, folks. Together, we can absolutely change school food for the better, and put Amherst, Massachusetts on the K-12 school foodservice map. Years from now, I hope we'll all look back on this first blog entry with a smile at how far we've come.
Director of Food Service for Amherst, Pelham, and the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District. We'll be posting updates to the program as we go along!.