Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrate Taste of Washington Day

Chris Iberle
WSDA Farm to School & Value Chains Specialist

Lentil sloppy joes, farmers sitting with school children, and the Washington Apple Crunch are all part of Taste Washington Day on October 3, when schools across the state will showcase locally grown foods in their cafeterias.

A past year's La Conner School District Taste Washington
 Day menu featured broccoli from Hedlin Farm in Mt. Vernon
The annual event highlights how school districts and our state’s agricultural industry can collaborate to provide locally-sourced school meals throughout the school year and celebrate farming across the state.

For the eighth year running, farmers and schools will partner with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Child Nutrition, and the Washington State Nutrition Association to feature Washington-grown foods in school cafeteria meals and celebrate farm to school programs.

So get ready to enjoy some white bean chicken chili, fresh Washington milk and kale Caesar salads, but make sure to save some room for one more big bite, the Washington Apple Crunch!

“The Farm to School initiative is a great reminder of the benefits of collaboration,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “For schools, it is a way to source locally produced foods to serve in their cafeterias, farmers are able to make connections that could provide another revenue source, and children enjoy lunch from crops grown in their home state.”

Riverview School District's Taste Washington Trolley
 filled with dragon tongue beans, lemon cucumbers,
Easter egg radishes, rainbow carrots, and green peppers.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed Oct. 3 as Taste Washington Day, recognizing the farmers that feed us and put locally grown food in our school cafeterias.

Schools sign up with WSDA to share information about their local menus, ingredients, or other Farm to School activities they have planned for the day. Schools also get free templates and materials from WSDA for their promotions.

Twenty-seven school districts and 20 farms are signed up so far this year. There’s still time for more to sign up, and over 50 districts are expected to participate. Some schools plan special events for Taste Washington Day, such as inviting a farmer to lunch, visits to school gardens, or doing the Washington Apple Crunch - when schools or classes all bite into a Washington apple at the same time, usually at noon.

“School Nutrition Programs all across Washington will spotlight our state's bountiful offerings of locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as locally raised beef, chicken and pork. These events provide opportunities to invite farmers to the classroom, plan a school garden, teach our kids about where our food comes from and encourage them to taste something new and fresh”, said Vickie Ayers, President of the Washington School Nutrition Association.

Putting it all together. School cafeteria cooks deliver
 flavor with locally sourced meat and produce. 
Farmers sign up with WSDA to be a part of Taste Washington Day and sell their products to schools or participate in school activities. WSDA Farm to School sends a list of farms that have signed up to participating schools and helps with local food procurement by matching farms and schools, finding farmers to participate in school events, and other logistics.

This year, schools are planning all kinds of activities.

Sometimes the farm is already at the school. WSDA staff visiting
 the Freedom Farmers at Olympia School District for
 Taste Washington Day 2017
Lopez Island School District has been serving meals made of ingredients from within 25 miles of the school throughout September, including produce from the Lopez Island Farm Education program’s school garden. Pullman Public Schools will serve Washington grown lentil sloppy joes and brownies and feature a visit from Mr. Lentil. Grandview School District will do a large Washington Apple Crunch at noon with teachers and students in classrooms and cafeterias across the district.

This is the first Taste Washington Day put on with support from the Washington State Farm to School Network. Launched in May 2018, with over 160 members, network members include school nutrition staff, farmers, teachers, school gardeners, non-profits and state agencies working together to grow farm to school in the state. Through the network, members are learning from each other, sharing resources, and many are a part of Taste Washington Day celebrations. The Washington State Farm to School Network is also a way to find out what’s happening with farm to school in your community, get involved, and illustrate the impacts of farm to school across the state.

Taste Washington Day is popular with farmers, school administrators, students and parents. Many participating schools use the day to highlight what “farm to school” means to them.  At least 100 districts in Washington State do some form of farm to school throughout the year, such as buying foods from Washington farmers or offering agricultural education. The USDA estimates schools spend over $17 million on Washington grown produce during the school year.

Visit the WSDA Farm to School program’s Taste Washington Day web page for more information or contact Chris Iberle at (206) 256-1874.