Blog: David Lahey

David Lahey has been in the food industry for 20-plus years. Over this time he has worked in all positions in the kitchen and the front of the house, from sous chef at Lochmore Country Club to executive chef at Wolverine Golf and Banquet Center. He then went on to become executive chef and general manager of North Channel Restaurants.

He has been with Chartwells since 2000, starting out as the executive chef at the Cranbrook Educational Community. He was promoted to director of operations at Cranbrook in 2002. In 2006 he was transferred to Ann Arbor Public Schools as its senior director of dining services.

He graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 1994, where he earned his degree in culinary arts.

David was married in 2006 and welcomed triplets into his life in 2010.

David Lahey - Most Recent Posts:

Post 2: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Over the last couple of years the collaborative has grown to include seven different partners.  Each partner has a different role in accomplishing the over all goals of the collaborative. The collaborative has been in existence for five years now. 

Some of our accomplishments include the use of produce carts in the schools, which has increased the availability of fresh produce for students; we've also added a Farm Fresh feature to the lunch program in the schools.  Even students are becoming more aware of local produce through the farmer visits to schools. 

One of the byproducts of the Farm to School (FTS) program is increased acreage at local farms, driven by demand for more local foods created by the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS).  We have also been able to garner funding via grants and donations (especially the Meal Pay Plus option) as a result of the FTS program.

We've also learned how to better promote and develop the FTS program.  Chartwells and AAPS has provided a shining example for others to follow in the development and implementation of a FTS program, and plan to continue building on this success, including adoption of a new rule for sourcing local produce – use of produce from school gardens!

Another area that will continue to require focus is community awareness.  This requires continuous communication to assure that parents are aware of the program, the use of signs to promote the program within the school, and a good understanding of systems in the schools for promoting FTS.  Local press coverage of stories about the program also helps increase public awareness.

What does each collaborative member contribute to the FTS committee?

  • Procurement of the produce
  • Processing
  • Menu planning
  • Distribution of marketing resources
  • Training of cafeteria staff
  • Advocacy & leadership within Chartwells - balancing how much to push
  • Finding funds to allow students to sample local food free
  • Responsive, communicative, active participants
Agrarian Adventure:
  • Get the kids and teachers in the garden
  • Integrate gardening into curriculum
  • School gardening expertise
  • Farmer to Classroom program coordination and curriculum development
  • Relationship with other AAPS school gardens

Ann Arbor Farmers' Market:
  • Connection to large, evolving pool of farmers
  • Large forum for outreach
  • Various food programs (e.g. SNAP)
  • Farmers' perspective
  • Opportunities for students and families to visit market
  • Destination for school field trips
  • Student-run market stall

Ann Arbor Public Schools:
  • District supports program from school board down
  • "Insider" knowledge of school district
  • Communication to key areas of district for marketing

Food Systems Economic Partnership:
  • Shared experience from other FTS programs
  • Expertise re: connecting producers, distribution connections
  • Knowledge base re: systems
  • Tuned into legislative issues
  • Bring back info from conferences
  • Different outreach channels
Project Healthy Schools:
  • Connection with kids, parents and staff at middle schools
  • Consistently in classroom (have been in 6th grade classrooms for 7 years)
  • Adjusted classroom lessons to include seasonality
  • UM Health Ambassadors – volunteer pool
  • Wellness teams and champions in schools
  • Shared fruit and vegetable consumption goal
  • Signage
  • Support for Farmer in Classroom program during critical transition year
  • Always keeping eyes out for grant funding opportunities

Washtenaw County Public Health:
  • Grant writing
  • County data
  • Connection to legislative issues and local issues
  • Nutrition education for low income populations – e.g. Ann Arbor Preschool
  • Outreach channels
  • County government perspective

As you can see each of the members have a very unique area of expertise. All of the members of the collaborative challenge Chartwells to keep expanding the program to reach the ultimate goal of feeding local produce daily and educating the students of Ann Arbor Public schools with farmer classroom visits and point of service signage that is second to no one in the state.

Post 1: Cafeteria fries be gone! New growth in the Farm to School Movement

I'll start this week's blog with the history of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Farm To School Program. The Farm To School Program started in June of 2006. The Farm System Economic Partnership (FSEP) engaged a collaborative group including the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chartwells (which runs the school lunch program), Project Healthy Schools, Washtenaw County Health Department, and The Agrarian Adventure to explore the feasibility of starting a farm to school program in the district.  

At that meeting we discussed the possibility of using local produce in the public schools and began to define the goals of the group. This was the beginning of the AAPS farm to school collaborative.

Each member of the collaborative had certain tasks that needed to be completed and signed a letter of intention. Chartwells' role was to procure local produce that was safe and handled correctly under strict Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points guidelines.

The collaborative team also defined what "local" meant within the program and guidelines for procuring local produce.  Our guidelines were as follows:

  • We would first attempt to purchase produce within the county.
  • Secondary procurement would stay within 50 miles of Ann Arbor.
  • When necessary we could source produce up to 150 miles from Ann Arbor.
  • Procurement of local produce would not include Canada or Ohio.

The other major goal at this point was to set up a system so that we could identify each item that we used and trace it back to the specific farmer that produced the crop.

Over the next few months Chartwells had to remove obstacles that could hamper the success of the program:

The first was insurance for the farmers.  Originally, each farmer needed $5 million in liability insurance so we could do business with them. This was then lowered to $1 million. Insurance  for the farmer is required so that Chartwells can insure the safety of students and faculty that we feed each and every day.

Finding The Farmers
The next obstacle was to find farmers that wanted to sell to us. This was not an easy task because the local farmers were selling all of their produce at the local farmers markets.  So FSEP and Chartwells got together and located farmers that were willing to sell produce to Chartwells for the local school program.

In September 2006 we had the first Farm To School Day in Ann Arbor.  We decided to start out with things kids would like and would try. The first locally grown item selected was yellow watermelon. Project Healthy School made fliers that identified the produce and showed where it came from as well as some fun facts about yellow watermelon.

Production of cutting fresh products started at 3:30 that morning and continued right up to serving time.  AAPS and Project Healthy Schools found volunteers to go to each school and promote the locally grown item on the day it was served. I think the collaborative and I would say that the day was a success.  We also learned a lot about what did not work, and how to correct it.

In the school year 2007-2008 the collaborative started the next phase of farm to school. This was Farmer In The Classroom. We had an overwhelming positive response from teachers. One of the most difficult things to do was finding farmers that were willing to come into the classroom.  Once farmers were convinced, we had over 25 classroom visits our first year and it has not slowed down since then.