“No child should ever know the indignity of being hungry. Kids are suffering in silence and hungry in plain sight. And someone has to do something about it.” That someone is Rodney K. Taylor, director of Food and Nutrition Services in Fairfax, Virginia. He is known for starting the first farm-to-school program in the country and changing perceptions of school food.
“Changing the food in schools can be a catalyst for changing the community,” Taylor said. “It’s possible to have healthy children and a healthy bottom line.” Taylor’s work has proven that if children are provided with healthy food options, they will modify their behaviors and make healthy eating choices. For the past 25 years, he has been directing school district nutrition programs. In 1997, he began bringing produce from local farmers into his schools. The program became known as the Farmers’ Market Salad Bar.
“Forty percent of what local farmers grow gets thrown out because the produce is not as beautiful as what they sell in stores,” he said. “We can buy that produce and get it into the schools. It helps the local community, and it gets the freshest food possible to children who don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
When Taylor became director of the Food Services Program in Riverside, California, in 2005, he brought the farm-to-school program with him. By the time he left 13 years later, the Food Services Program went from a $3.1 million deficit to $7.1 million in reserve. The program expanded from feeding 47 percent to 70 percent of the district’s children.
“My work changed what people thought about school food. It gave access to children who wouldn’t have access,” he said. “It also demonstrated that we could change children’s eating behaviors. We can bring innovation into schools and make school districts proud of the food they serve.”
Taylor is now in Fairfax, Virginia, because of his reputation for making change. It’s the 10th-largest school district in the country. His Food Services Program prepares more than 149,000 meals per day for his 194 schools plus community organizations.
“I’m here to ensure kids get healthy meals. I come from the inner city, and I know hunger far more intimately than I care to discuss. I don’t want any child to ever go hungry,” Taylor said. “Not on my watch. Not when I’m here.”
Rodney K. Taylor is a pioneer and expert in revolutionizing school nutrition.
Currently, Mr. Taylor is the director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia. Prior to FCPS, Mr. Taylor was employed as the director of Nutrition Services for the Riverside Unified School District in Riverside, California.
A noted pioneer and expert in farm-to-school salad bars, Mr. Taylor is known for establishing the Farmers" Market Salad Bar program in 1997 while working as director of Food and Nutrition Services in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in Santa Monica, California.
Mr. Taylor has served on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, the University of California President’s Advisory Commission for Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Network for a Healthy California’s Executive Committee.
Mr. Taylor is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the California Endowment’s Health Heroes Award, Loma Linda University Award for The Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles – For Outstanding Commitment to the Public’s Health, The Riverside Human Relations Commission Heroes Award, and the NAACP Education Award. Learn more at fcps.edu/fs/food/index.shtml.