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Upland Heights Elementary School

Frenship ISD Dining is Harvesting Fresh Produce for Student Lunches

In the hallway outside the cafeteria at Frenship High School, you can find hydroponic micro-farms blooming with fresh produce. Elizabeth Williams, Chef Manager for Aramark, is spearheading a project to bring homegrown and fresh produce to the students at Frenship High School.  

Aramark is committed to improving the health and academic potential of students and children. One of the more innovative ways they accomplish this is by developing the fresh produce project at Frenship High School.

When Williams joined Frenship Dining last year, the project was already in the works, but she took ownership of it to learn a new skill, help build the foundation of the program, and try out her green thumb. Over the summer she researched the micro-farms and started her first batch of seedlings.  

The system Williams uses is called a Babylon Micro-Farm. It is a hydroponic farm monitored wirelessly by a unit manufacturer in Virginia. She receives updates when the crops need to be transplanted or harvested and when the farm needs to be cleaned. She also monitors the liquid nutrients the farm uses to feed the plants, which must be done manually.  

The project's goal was to bring fresh produce to the plate for Frenship students, and under the guidance of Williams it has been very successful. To date, the micro-farms have had six harvests, yielding roughly 55-66 pounds of lettuce and greens.  

The most recent harvest was a crop of microgreens called Purple Kohlrabi and Russian Red. The next yield will be a batch of Lolla Rosa and a blend of lettuces called Crunch Mix which contains Romaine, Butter Lettuce, and Iceberg.  

The produce that comes from the Babylon Micro-Farm is being used on the Grill line in the cafeteria and in Java City for salads and wraps. The lettuce is used as is, whereas the microgreens are mixed to add color and texture. 

“We have learned a lot, tasted some vegetables and greens we may have never tasted or had access to serve before,” said Williams. “It has been a great experience through the confidence and pride it provides when a crop comes out amazing! It's been fun watching the seedlings turn into heads of lettuce and herbs like dill and basil.” 

Williams is looking forward to continuing and expanding the program. She hopes to bring in more produce for students' meals.