Assemblymember David Alvarez Commends Southwest High School’s Sustainable Farm-to-School Program

Assemblymember David Alvarez Commends Southwest High School's Sustainable Farm-to-School Program

Assemblymember David Alvarez visited Southwest High School in the Sweetwater District to witness firsthand the innovative and sustainable practices of the California Partnerships Academy (CPA) Eco Engineering program. This groundbreaking initiative, which originated at Southwestern High School in late 2008 and gained momentum in the 2010 era, focuses on promoting environmental stewardship and hands-on learning experiences for students.

“One of the program’s notable achievements is the implementation of a zero waste program,” said Eric Span, Sweetwater District Nutrition Services Director. “This includes the use of compost bins, a farm barn, chicken coops, and various fruit trees such as citrus fruits, dragon fruit, and passion fruit. This holistic farm approach, in collaboration with Mechanical Engineering, aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of sustainable agriculture and engineering principles.” Span and Hector Arias, Southwest High teacher who oversees the program and have both lead the successful initiative.

The farm-to-school project has been a remarkable success, producing approximately more than 500 eggs per week. Students are currently working on pasteurizing the eggs to incorporate them into protein boxes for school meals, with a goal of distributing them to schools across the district. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program housed 400 chickens, with students actively involved in designing and building the coops as part of the engineering pathway. The program holds a California Egg Handler permit, ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations.

Through a collaborative effort with the health department and USDA, the program has transformed into a thriving farm that not only serves as an educational hub but also as a sustainable source of produce for school cafeterias. Arias, also works closely with the special education department to provide students with valuable hands-on experiences, such as packaging eggs and engaging in community service activities on weekends.

The community outreach efforts of the program extend beyond the school grounds, with Nestor Elementary students visiting the farm to learn about sustainable agriculture practices. Plans are underway to rebuild a coop that is wheelchair accessible and install a handwashing station to enhance accessibility.

Additionally, towards the end of his visit Assemblymember Alvarez, his team, and Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Moises Aguirre enjoyed a meal using ingredients sourced directly from the farm, further promoting the farm-to-table concept and fostering a culture of sustainability and innovation within the school community.