Rodney Taylor: School Food RevolutionaryTue 31 May 2011
Story by The Food Revolution Team
Rodney Taylor has been the Director of Director of Nutrition Services for Riverside Unified School District – the 15th largest district in the state of California - since August 2002. In this capacity he plans, organizes, and directs the department’s self-supporting nutritional services program, managing an annual budget in excess of $16 million.
Rodney has 34 years experience in the food service industry, having worked in college and university, fast-food dining, management consultancy, and school food service administration.
Rodney is a noted pioneer and expert in “Farm to School salad bars” and is a charter member of the national Farm to School network. Under Rodney’s leadership, RUSD opened it’s pilot salad bar in March 2005 at Jefferson Elementary school. Since that time, the program has expanded to serve 29 of the district’s elementary schools. The wider nutritional services program serves more than 34,000 meals per day, at 46,000 school sites in addition to child-care, private schools and the Riverside County Office of Education programs.
Prior to his role as director of Nutrition Services at RUSD, Rodney held leadership positions at Santa Monica School District and the Marriot Corporation. During his time at SMMSD, Rodney oversaw the implementation of Farm to School Salad bars in all 15 schools in the district. The idea to replace the pre-packaged fruit and vegetables with farm-fresh, local produce had initially come from enthusiastic parents. Skeptical at first, Rodney gave the go ahead to a pilot program in one of the district’s elementary schools –thought to be one of the very first Farm to School programs in the country. When the program seemed to be a success, with kids noticing the difference in flavor compared to the old style commodities, he threw his full weight behind the idea and expanded the Farm to School salad bars district-wide.
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" just to name a few.
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