Spotlight on Rodney Taylor, Farm to School Pioneer

April 07, 2011

Healthy Schools Campaign is pleased to announce Heroes for Healthy Schools: Coming together for student wellness and achievement, a series that HSC is presenting with Chicago Public Schools and the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to recognize Minority Health Month and highlight the role everyone can play in ensuring that all children are able to succeed in school and live healthy lives.

Yesterday and today, the Office of Minority Health held the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for its new Action Learning Collaborative, with the long term goal of improving schools’ food offerings and school environments for all children, and in particular for minority and underserved populations. We are thrilled to spotlight Rodney Taylor, a member of the Action Learning Collaborative and a strong voice for healthy school food. 

To read more profiles and nominate your own hero for healthy schools, visit www.healthyschoolscampaign.org/healthheroes

by Jorge Bañales, a writer for the Office of Minority Health Resource Center

“I have been involved in the farm to school movement since its founding, more specifically I am known for my work with the Farmers’ Market Salad Bar program,” said Rodney Taylor, the Director of Nutrition Services for the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD), in Riverside, California.

RUSD is the fifteenth largest school district in California, with 43,000 students in 47 schools. The district provides 34,000 meals per day. Taylor is responsible for a department of 358 employees and a $17 million dollar budget. So, it’s not that he wasn’t busy enough, but he wasn’t interested in keeping things the way they were.

Taylor launched the all-you-can-eat school salad bar, which provides students access to fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis during lunch. The produce for the salad bar is purchased from local farmers. The Farmers’ Market Salad Bar has been recognized as a national model for schools and districts interested in providing greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables to their students.

Now, he is bringing this expertise to the Action Learning Collaborative organized by the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

“It was by invitation that I came into contact with the Office of Minority Health Action Learning Collaborative Advisory Group,” Taylor said. “I accepted because of my commitment to reversing the trends of childhood obesity, particularly as it affects people of color. It’s always exciting to be a part of such a powerful group of dedicated, motivated, and passionate professionals, seeking to bring about positive change for our children.”

For Taylor, schools are in a position to play an integral role in building communities that support health for all children, simply because many students consume two of their three daily meals at school.

“Through our nutrition programs, we are well positioned to partner with school principals, teachers, parents, students, and all other agencies and organizations interested in improving our children’s health” he said.

Taylor has 34 years of experience in the food service industry. He is a charter member of the National Farm to School Network and the School Food FOCUS program. Rodney holds memberships in the national School Nutrition Association, the University of California President’s Advisory Commission for Agriculture and Natural Resources, American Diabetes Association, Los Angeles Urban-Rural Roundtable, and the Executive Committee of the Network for a Healthy California's Statewide Collaborative.  He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards:  In 2010 he received the Riverside Human Relations Commission “Heroes Award” and the  N.A.A.C.P. “Education Award” to name a few.

Kudos to Rodney Taylor and all the Action Learning Collaborative members who are making a difference for kids’ health across the country!