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 folks (including myself) have no idea about until stepping into the role of a K-12 Food Service Director. My job is to work within the existing system to improve school meals here in the Amherst-Pelham schools. But I've quickly realized that public school food is the most regulated part of the food system. It's going to take some time for me to learn the in's and out's of what our government allows us to purchase, cook, and serve to students each day.
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 a highly regulated 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! There are so many opportunities to make school food both 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 this one up by sharing with you my goal. I aim to share these real life trials and tribulations with you all on a weekly basis. My goal is to post one new blog entry per 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, but have to get done in order to build a second to none 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.