The Start with Half a Cup (SWHAC) committee is a collaboration of Connecticut's finest farm to school experts and advocates.The project's focus is to inspire, inform, build support and increase collaborative work for the Farm to School and the Know Your Farmer Know Your Food initiative.

Among other responsibilities, the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services manages the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foods Program, the Department of Education manages the National School Lunch, and School Breakfast Programs, as well as the Farm to School Program in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. 

Each year, our agencies collaborate and jointly host several meetings and trainings for our customers on subjects such as, proper procurement, the new meal pattern, USDA Foods processed products food show, and the Connecticut School Breakfast Summit. CT has consistently been last in the country in measures concerning School Breakfast.  Through a joint effort of State agencies and community partners we are working very hard to change that.

The USDA new meal pattern requires a half-cup portion of fruit or vegetable on every student’s tray for lunch and breakfast.  We see a real need for nutrition education for students, as well as education and guidance specific to procurement, marketing and the safe handling of fresh produce for school nutrition staff.  We also want to reach students directly in an effort to prevent the fresh fruits and vegetables from being thrown in the garbage, uneaten.  This defeats the goal of the new meal pattern, and wastes food dollars.  We created a team of state agency personnel, school food service directors, anti-hunger advocates, Food Corps service members, and other interested parties.  Our plan is a one year project to promote fresh produce and provide school food service directors with a toolkit filled with educational material and guidance.  The project’s focus is to inspire, inform, build support and increase collaborative work for the USDA “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food” initiative. 

The toolkit consists of a variety of educational material for cafeteria workers such as; a one page sheet to assist staff with having a conversation with the students about the various fruits and vegetables on their tray; a “tips and tricks” section for staff on proper techniques for  handling a variety of fresh produce; visual and written information about what is a proper serving size for various age groups; information on how to  properly procure produce including geographic preference, etc. The goal is to build the team’s confidence, ability to get the children eating the food, and reduce waste for our state schools—ultimately saving our food dollars and improving the diets of Connecticut’s children. 

Special thanks to the Committee:

Linda Hubeny, CT Department of Administrative Services, Food Distribution Program Director, Committee Co-Chair

Jane Slupecki, CT Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing and Inspection Representative 2, Committee Co-Chair

Jackie Schipke, MBA, RD, SNS, CT Department of Education, Education Consultant, Committee Co-Chair

Patti Connolly, USDA Northeast Regional Office, Lead Program Specialist

Monica Pacheco, RD,  CT Department of Education, Education Service Specialist

Ann Simeone, CT Department of Administrative Services, Contract Specialist

Jiff Martin, UCONN, Associate Extension Educator for Sustainable Food Systems

Dawn Crayco, End Hunger CT!, Deputy Director

Madeleine Diker SNS, Cheshire Public Schools, Food Service Director

Maggie Dreher, Region 10, Avon and Canton Public Schools, Food Service Director

Maureen Nuzzo, Old Saybrook Public Schools, Food Service Director

Erin Perpetua, Norwich Public Schools, Food Service Director

Roberta Jacobs, SNS Norwich Public Schools, Food Service Director (Retired)

Leah Korger, Norwich Public Schools, FoodCorps Connecticut Service Member

Dan Shields, RD, Newtown Public Schools, Food Service Director

Michelle Lapine McCabe, Hartford Food System, Food Policy Analyst