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Farm to School program gets nod from first lady

First lady Michelle Obama has taken note of a local school-based agricultural program and plans to send a letter of support that will be read at a fundraiser this week, according to the program’s director.

“This is really exciting,” said Candice Cosler, who teaches an active gardening class to 500 kids in three schools through the Jefferson County Farm to School Coalition.

“Her office contacted us on Friday and told us to expect the letter in time for the fundraiser.”
Read more…

Farm to School Mobile Tour gives taste of North Olympic Peninsula’s bounty

That’s what Chef Dave Long of Port Angeles prepared for the 30 participants in Wednesday’s Farm to School Mobile Tour at Sequim Prairie Grange.
A daylong event for food service directors and farmers on the North Olympic Peninsula, it featured hands-on training in the kitchen, field trips to local growers and, of course, lunch featuring local ingredients.
Read more…


The 10 most impressive farm-to-school programs

What’s not to like about farm-to-school programs? If you’re not familiar with the term, it means just what it sounds like: programs that bring farm-fresh, local foods to public and even private schools so that kids can enjoy great nutrition. The programs also offer excellent educational opportunities, bringing students to farms, and chefs to classrooms, while at the same time giving local farmers a great place to sell their products. Read on, and we’ll take a look at 10 farm-to-school programs that are doing a great job.  Read more…

Chef Tony Geraci is Cafeteria Man

Three years ago, the name Tony Geraci was known to only a few in the school food industry. Now school systems across the country are begging to see him; top food service companies are courting him; he’s on a first-name basis with food activist legends such as Michael Pollan; and there’s even been a major documentary film, Cafeteria Man, made about him.

But back in 2008 when he first arrived in the Baltimore City Schools to take the job of food service director, not many knew of his appointment. He had been a successful chef, food broker, food manufacturer and food service director before he was hired by Dr. Andrés Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools, for the express purpose of transforming an extremely distressed food program into something nutritious and good for the students. Read more…

Exclusive Interview with Kathleen Merrigan: Farm to School Movement Comes of Age

It’s a big day for the farm to school movement. At the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention in Nashville today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced a comprehensive, groundbreaking report on the current state of farm to school efforts around the country. Download the full report here.

The data in the report was complied by the USDA Farm to School Team (comprised of both Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) staff), which made visits to 15 school districts (over what time frame) in a wide range of states. Merrigan spoke with Civil Eats earlier today about the findings and how it might shape the farm to school landscape of the future. read more…

King County program serves up a feast of healthful eating

It sounds like a Food Network reality show: a dinner party where participants must devise their own recipes, winging it with whatever ingredients are on hand, without any idea how many guests will show up. Could be 20, could be 60.

Oh yeah, and the cooks are between the ages of 12 and 22 — and for many, their only cooking experience is zapping a frozen dinner.

Talk about a gamble.

And yet, every Wednesday, the youths at FEEST manage to pull it off.

“It’s always amazing how we always have enough food, and it comes out pretty good,” said Cristina Orbe, program manager at FEEST, which stands for Food Education Empowerment and Sustainability Team.

The free drop-in program — with a budget of about $50,000, courtesy of the King County Food and Fitness Initiative — teaches young people about cooking and healthful eating. All the meals are centered on vegetables, with a little bit of meat thrown in occasionally.

“A lot of youth eat a ton of starch and a ton of meat,” Orbe said. “We want to make vegetables delicious.”

Some of the vegetables come from the garden at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle’s Delridge area, which houses the program.

On a recent day, there were carrots and kale, chard and beets, potatoes and mushrooms and more, all laid out on the table when youths began arriving at 3:30 p.m. Newbies were warmly welcomed — and put right to work chopping. Creativity was encouraged.

“I’m just going to make it up,” said Fatuma Ali, a 15-year-old West Seattle High School student, as she sliced carrots for roasted potatoes. “Maybe some ginger, black pepper, olive oil … ”

A trained adult gently guides the youths with the wisdom gained from years of cooking — how to use a knife safely, what tastes good with what, how in the world to make your own salad dressing. Then he stands back. read more…

Aloha! Hawaii School Lunches Made from Scratch

School lunches, served daily to millions of children across the nation, are a nutritional mess. What can you expect from a meal that must cost less than $2 per child? Subsidized by the USDA through surplus agricultural commodities and extensively processed to lower costs and extend shelf-life and transportability, these lunches must improve. They have become a focal point in the war against obesity.

Now some good news from Hawaii:
Starting in August, 15 entrees in the 25-day monthly menu cycle will be made from scratch in Hawaii public schools, where 100,000 meals are served daily in the nation’s 10th largest school system and the only statewide district in the country. read more…

Seattle City Council adopts Seattle Farm Bill Principles, providing guidance to the Federal Government

Seattle City Council President, Richard Conlin, continues to show his support for a vibrant food system in the region.

On Monday, the Seattle City Council adopted resolution 31296, supporting the Seattle Farm Bill Principles as policy guidance to the Federal Government in the renewal of the 2012 Farm Bill.

“One of my main goals as a Councilmember is supporting public health, economic development and protecting our environment, all essential to the viability and livability of our city and our economy,” said Council President Richard Conlin, Chair of the Regional Development and Sustainability Committee and sponsor of this resolution. “We hope that Seattle’s actions will serve as a model for other jurisdictions, and that they will follow our lead.”

Seattle, along with other municipalities, faces multiple health, social, and environmental problems connected to food.  In 2007, up to 11 percent of adults in Seattle ran out of food.  In 2008, the incidence of obesity in King County adults was 21 percent. Currently, 42 percent of Seattle’s public school students are enrolled to receive free or reduced meals. read more…

Official: Students eager to eat local veggies

WENATCHEE, Wash. — Wenatchee School District buys about 20 percent of its produce for school lunches directly from local farms, and its food services director says it’s a good way to meet new federal criteria for more fruits and vegetables.

Kent Getzin said he increased local buying for better quality, improved student nutrition and to support local farms.

Students are educated about what grows locally, said Vicki Kelley, Getzin’s secretary.
Last fall, Kelley helped high school kitchen staff get students to sample about a dozen heirloom varieties of tomatoes in school hallways.

“We set up tables and sliced all these goofy looking tomatoes and encouraged kids to try them,” she said.

“Some would say, ‘I don’t like tomatoes,’ and I would say, ‘You should try this one. It’s lower in acid and a little sweeter,’” she said.

Students liked the tomatoes, she said.

The district began buying apples from local fruit giant Stemilt Growers Inc. 12 years ago but buys from several area farms now and places orders before the growing season.
“We get great variety,” Getzin said.

The district buys most of its local produce in the fall, but it buys potatoes, winter squash and apples year-round. Suppliers include Cloud View Eco Farms in Royal City, Smithson Ranch and T&T Farms near Wenatchee and Yaksum Canyon Truck Farm near Peshastin.

“The Wenatchee School District is way ahead of the curve on this,” Getzin said, noting the buy-local concept appears new to other school food service directors. read more…

$1 Million Grant Funds WSU Extension ‘Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth’ Project

WSU Extension is the lead institution on a new “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” project funded by a $1 million grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. The grant was announced today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Aimed at reducing childhood obesity and improving nutrition, the pilot project spans four states, will serve an estimated 2,800 students at 70 elementary schools, and will engage low-income students in the physical activity involved in growing food and learning life skills. The Cooperative Extension Services of Iowa State University, Cornell University, and the University of Arkansas are collaborating with WSU Extension on the project.

“School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition,” said Vilsack. “Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed.” read more…