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The Washington Farm to Schools (F2S) Program launched a new Washington Grown Food Kit to help connect school food service directors with farmers and other suppliers of fresh fruits and vegetables in their region. The tool kit was developed because of schools’ growing interest in finding more sources of affordable healthy food. It also highlights the successful projects already underway. The initiative is part of the Washington State Department of Agriculture with funding from a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.
According to F2S Project Coordinator Becky Elias, “We want the kit to be useful for food service directors to get started with planning, procurement and logistics.” The tool kit includes recipes that are scalable for the size of the school population. Since changing a school’s food service involves the entire community, the kit shares techniques for community engagement. In addition, teachers can explore suggestions for integrating access to healthy foods with academic programs, such as exploring science in a school garden.
Farmers can use the tool kit to learn strategies for developing and serving school markets, including gaining knowledge about agricultural practices that comply with school procurement policies. Elias says, “Most farmers are following these practices and merely need help with documentation and certification.”
State funding to the WSDA Farm-to-School Program has been eliminated and the agency is exploring what the next steps will be with programmatic work and grant work. Partners can subscribe to the Farm to Schools Connection listserv to receive updates on new resources and funding opportunities.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture Farm-to-Schools Program serves as model for US Department of Agriculture’s policy on promoting children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. “We are engaging with partners on the national level and in other states,” says Elias. The program recently implemented projects funded by federal stimulus funds, including a start-to-finish farm to school project in the Kent School District.
Featured: June 2011