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Two rural school districts received significant grants from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand their Farm to School initiatives. In addition, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) received an award to continue their crucial technical assistance to other districts seeking to improve nutrition for students by purchasing locally grown produce. According to Tricia Kovacs, Education and Outreach Coordinator for WSDA, “We get so many requests for technical assistance from districts all over the state wanting to begin or increase their farm to school activities, especially now that newer state and federal policies allow districts to use geographic preference to procure locally grown produce. Also, the new USDA school nutrition standards require schools to serve more fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and low-fat dairy.”
Cheney Public Schools received $44,999 to advance the comprehensive reorganization of their nutrition program. They previously shifted their school lunch to a scratch cooking program; new funding will permit them to expand healthy options to the entire district.
Walla Walla Public School District received $96,000 to develop and strengthen partnerships around regional procurement with a broad set of activities. They plan to mentor smaller districts nearby and serve as a pilot district for a state farm to institution geographic preference project. They will enhance both nutritional and educational opportunities in their region by working with a local culinary institute to provide training and recipe development for district kitchen staff. The district will add to its three school gardens by starting two more gardens and hiring two part time garden coordinators to engage students in gardening. The district has other plans for chef demonstrations and will host one of the WSDA’s farm/kitchen skills tours.
The Farm to School team at WSDA received $95,539 to continue providing technical assistance to both districts and farmers. During three farm/kitchen skills tours scheduled for the next year, WSDA staff will provide guidance to farmers who want to supply produce to school districts and will train district staff in hands-on peer-led cooking classes. “We have held many successful tours like this for school food service staff and farmers in the past,” says Kovacs. “The tours complement our other outreach activities like presentations at conferences and workshops, and promotions for Taste Washington Day and National Farm to School Month.” Through other grant funding, WSDA will share the recently published A School’s Guide to Purchasing Washington-Grown Food: Using Geographic Preference to Strengthen Farm to School (pdf) at training sessions to be scheduled around the state.
Featured: December 2012
Cheney, Walla Walla and statewide