Archive for local food systems

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.
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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…

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…

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…

More schools trying to serve Washington-grown food — but it isn’t easy

Aahh, the Snoqualmie Valley. All that fertile land. All those vegetables. All that …

Wait a minute, parents inevitably wonder: Shouldn’t that blushing-fresh produce be winding up in my kid’s lunchroom?

Tricia Kovacs is here to tell you it is. Or, at least, it is in some schools. Sometimes.

Kovacs is in charge of the state’s Farm-to-School Program, which was created in 2008 by legislation intended to make it easier to get more local food into school cafeterias. In recent years, Kovacs said, more and more schools have been putting Washington-grown food on the menu. Farms, too, are increasingly interested in selling to schools.

Still, while all that produce may be only a few miles away, getting it onto lunch trays is no easy matter. Even proponents concede it can be a logistical feat. And with astonishingly tight lunch budgets, even spending a few more pennies on an apple can push it out of reach.

“The things that are stopping people are real challenges,” Kovacs said. “But we also are learning every day ways school districts and farms have found to overcome some of them.”

One of the biggest changes is in attitudes. It used to be just parents and food advocates were the ones pushing for local food. Today, even the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on it, with proposed changes to purchasing rules and even farm-to-school webinars to show how it can be done.

“It’s very active right now from the national level down to the local level,” Kovacs said. “It used to feel like the schools needed to be pushed. Now I’m hearing from schools and they’re so excited.”

How many schools serve local food? Numbers just don’t exist — yet (Kovacs said she’s working on a survey).

What she does know, however, is that this year, dozens of school districts on Wednesday will join in on Taste Washington Day, an event organized by Kovacs’ program and the Washington School Nutrition Association. Schools are free to participate, or not. The idea is simply to feature Washington-grown items on school menus.

That’s good for both the kids and the farms, Kovacs said.

First of all, local produce tastes better than something from afar, which means kids will eat more of it, she believes. It also boosts the local economy and helps farmers. read more…