Thursday, May 26, 2011

School Officials Like Buying Local Produce

Check out this article in the Capital Press about a recent Farm-to-School Mobile Tour and workshop for farmers and school food service staff.

Official: Students eager to eat local veggies


Capital Press

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.

Getzin was among 28 school food service directors and 10 farmers who visited Cloud View and Tonnemaker Farms near Royal City on May 18. Getzin showed the group how to make a red Thai curry and stir-fried vegetables at lunch time at Wahluke High School in Mattawa.

The event was sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture's Farm-to-School Program to connect farmers and school food service directors. The 4-year-old program has hosted several such events and holds one in Spokane on June 13.

"I showed them how easy it is to incorporate fresh foods into lunches and a couple of the directors said, 'I think we can do this,'" Getzin said.

Farmers were enthusiastic and included a grass-fed beef producer from Ellensburg and a squash farmer from Whidbey Island, he said.

Joan Qazi, a Wenatchee buy-local promoter, organized similar networking a year ago that prompted Getzin to buy more local produce.

Wenatchee School District serves more than 1 million lunches a year, about 6,000 students a day and spends about $100,000 annually on produce.

It's "marginally more expensive" to buy local produce and takes some initial extra logistical effort, but it means high-quality produce and supporting local farmers, Getzin said.

The recently reauthorized Child Nutrition Act requires schools to increase the servings of fruits and vegetables, he said.

"We get comments almost daily about our vegetables. They (the students) love them," said Jan Hanson, Wenatchee High School food service manager.

"The first time we served asparagus, we prepared 10 pounds and probably threw away eight," she said. "Then I coaxed them to try it and they found out how good it is. Now we serve 27 pounds."

It tastes great with her lemon pepper, olive oil and garlic seasoning, she said.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sign up for Upcoming Farm-to-School Mobile Tours

There are two Farm-to-School Mobile tours coming up soon!

May 18th, 2011
Central Washington
Royal City area
To register:

June 13th, 2011
Eastern Washington
Spokane area
To register:

These farm tour and kitchen skills workshops allows farmers and school nutrition directors the opportunity to spend a day networking and learning about the environments in which the others work, with the intent to build on-going relationships that will allow farms to access institutional markets and school nutrition directors to feature more Washington-grown produce.

Participants will start by visiting two farms that use diverse production methods to grow a variety of crops, then they'll share an on-farm meal made with farm-fresh produce, and then move to a local School District's central kitchen. At that point farmers and nutrition staff will divide into two break-out groups: one for farmers, focused on market access and development; and the other for nutrition staff to prepare 4-6 recipes that comply with USDA standards for school lunch menu planning, and feature farm-fresh Washington-grown produce.

Click here for more information or call 206-256-6151.

Champions of Change: Chefs Move to Schools - USDA Blog

USDA and Let's Move highlights Champions for Change and Chefs Move to Schools. Chef Garrett Berdan, RD was honored as a Champion for Change and he writes on the USDA Blog about great things he sees happening in schools in the Pacific Northwest and ways chefs can get involved.

Read the USDA Blog Post and learn more about Chefs Move to Schools.

Monday, May 2, 2011

USDA Announcement on Purchase of Local Agricultural Products

Release No. 0180.11
Jean Daniel
FNS Communications (703) 305-2281

New USDA Rule Encourages the Purchase of Local Agricultural Products for Critical Nutrition Assistance Programs

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 – Today, Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon announced that USDA's child nutrition programs are implementing new rules designed to encourage use of local farm products in school meals. The final rule, published in the Federal Register, will let schools and other providers give preference to unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products as they purchase food for the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Child and Adult Care, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable, and Summer Food Service programs. The rule is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama and one of the key provisions to bolster farm to school programs across the country.

"This rule is an important milestone that will help ensure that our children have access to fresh produce and other agricultural products," said Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. "It will also give a much-needed boost to local farmers and agricultural producers."

The rule supports USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative which emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems. 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' is helping to break down barriers that keep local food systems from thriving, create new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities, and expand access to healthy food throughout the country. USDA expects consumer demand for locally grown food in the U.S. to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012.

The Farm to School component of this effort is designed to help connect schools with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally-sourced products in their cafeterias. USDA currently is sending teams out to select school districts to work on farm to school issues. Some of these programs also incorporate nutrition-based studies, as well as food-learning opportunities such as farm visits, gardening, cooking, and composting activities.

Improving child nutrition is also a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that recently passed Congress and was signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010. This legislation authorizes USDA'S child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program. It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative. To learn more, visit

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs including the Summer Food Service Program; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the National School Lunch Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net. USDA administers these programs in partnership with state and local agencies and works with faith and community-based organizations to ensure that nutrition assistance is available to those in need. Additional information about the programs can be found at and the USDA's Farm to School initiative at:
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Last Modified: 04/26/2011