Incorporating school garden produce into the cafeteria is a great way to provide more fresh fruit and veggie options to your students. And the best part is that the students helped grow the produce themselves! Growing produce for the school cafeteria requires extra planning, but KCCG is here to help you navigate district rules, school guidelines and garden maintenance in order to help you achieve your goal!


Tips for eating garden produce in the classroom:

  • Choose garden fruits and veggies that require little preparation. Lettuce, carrots, radishes, snap peas, beans, kale and other snack-able produce are good options.
  • If a sink is not available in the classroom, arrange a time with the kitchen staff to wash the produce.
  • Contacting the food director and kitchen staff days in advance is best.
  • Consider what dishes and utensils will be needed when preparing and consuming the garden produce.

Quick and simple ways to use garden produce:

  • Make a salad with lettuce, radishes, snap peas and other veggies from the garden.
  • Top a plain cheese pizza with garden veggies.
  • Stuff a tortilla with hummus and garden veggies for a salad wrap.
  • Dip vegetables into homemade dips, peanut butter, hummus and more.
  • Have a baked potato bar with fresh potatoes, broccoli, onions and other add-ons.
  • Make homemade salsa with tomatoes, peppers and cilantro from the garden.

Food Safe Practices for Working in and Maintaining the Garden:

Providing produce for the school cafeteria requires following certain rules and guidelines established by your school and district. Kansas City Community Gardens can help make your dreams a reality by providing your students with fresh, healthy produce. The following are helpful guidelines to follow, but for more specific information, contact the food director of your school and district.

Water Source

  • Best Option: Only use a potable (drinkable) water source from an approved public water system to water garden plants.
  • Acceptable Option: If the garden is already using an untreated water source such as rain barrel or cistern, be sure to have the water tested at least once a year to ensure it meets the EPA standards for safety. Maintain all records of this testing.


  • Best Option: Obtain ready-made compost from reputable sources such as MO Organic Recycling:
  • Acceptable Option: To be safe for gardening, material composted on-site must reach a temperature of at least 130°F for at least 5 days to kill pathogens. Check the temperature with a large compost thermometer. Do not compost animal waste, meat scraps, or dairy products.
    • Communicate with school grounds crew and/or maintenance staff to ensure safe practices on the school grounds near the garden. Do not use pesticides or herbicides in or around garden.
    • Keep cats, dogs, and other pets out of the garden as animal waste can be a source of bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Do not feed wild animals or birds near your garden.
    • All garden participants must wear closed-toe shoes when working in the garden.
    • Do not allow anyone to work in the garden while sick.

Harvesting Garden Produce

  • Plan ahead to make harvesting the first task you do in the garden before other activities involving weeding, watering, maintaining, etc.
  • Always wash your hands before harvesting fresh produce.
  • Pick up and remove rotting produce. Any animal feces present should be discarded by an adult. The produce immediately around the feces should also be discarded. Immediately wash hands to avoid contamination of other produce.
  • All tools (scissors, knives, etc.) used for harvesting must be cleaned with water and soap and sanitized before each use.
  • Shake or rub off all excess garden soil or debris on produce while in the garden.
  • Use clean and sanitized, food-grade containers for transporting harvested produce. These are made from materials designed specifically to safely hold food. Do not use garbage bags or any reused bag.
    • Best Options: Food grade plastic bucket or container, food grade re-sealable bags in gallon or quart size, produce bags.

    • Acceptable Option: Clean, new grocery bag.

Storing Garden Produce

  • Plan ahead to harvest right before use or going home to eliminate the need for storage.
  • Communicate with school food service staff to ensure storage facilities are accessible if necessary.
  • If you plan to store produce for use on a different date than harvest, don’t wash it before storing.
    • Best Option: Store unwashed produce in clean, food grade plastic bags or containers. Be sure to label the container in a way that makes it clear that the produce must be washed prior to use.
    • Acceptable Option: Store unwashed produce in clean plastic containers or bags.
  • If you choose to wash produce before storing, be sure to dry them thoroughly with a clean paper towel. (NEVER wash berries until you are ready to eat them).
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables needing refrigeration (cut leafy greens, cut tomatoes,) must be stored at 40°F or less.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature (onions, potatoes, whole tomatoes) should be in a cool, dry, pest-free, well-ventilated area at least 6 inches off the ground.

Preparing and Serving Fresh Garden Produce

  • Always wash hands before and after handling fresh produce.
  • Always follow safe food handling practices and check with foodservice staff for specific instructions regarding kitchen and food use.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under cool, running, potable water before eating, cutting, peeling, or cooking.
  • Never use soap, detergent, or bleach solution to wash produce.
  • Avoid cross contamination when preparing produce. Cross-contamination occurs when a clean work surface, such as cutting boards and utensils or uncontaminated food, is contaminated by unclean surfaces, utensils, hands or food.
  • If you have leftover produce that has been cut, sliced, or cooked, store it in clean airtight containers in the refrigerator. Use within two days.
  • If the harvest from the school garden will be used in the school meals program, the garden coordinator should work cooperatively with the school nutrition director to plan the use of garden produce. Plan ahead to coordinate!