What is Farm to School (F2S)?
Farm to School is a nationwide movement to enrich bodies and minds while supporting the local economy. It’s a program that sources school foods locally, while providing complimentary education activities that emphasize food, farming and nutrition. The term encompasses efforts that bring local and regionally produced foods into the school cafeterias and hands on learning activities like school gardening, farm visits and culinary classes.
Regional offerings (and therefore economic opportunities for local food producers) can span the school meal tray and include everything from fresh fruit and vegetable servings to the wheat in the pizza crust, beans in the chili, peppers in the stir fry, beef in the hamburgers, and cheese in the quesadillas. Thus, farm to school includes farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, as well as food processors, manufacturers, and distributors.
Pictured at right: WWPS Nutrition Services Director Pam Milleson, with bell peppers used in the Farm to School program.
History of the Walla Walla School District Farm to School Program
Support for a “Farm to Cafeteria” program was first mentioned 2006 in the District’s Nutrition and Fitness Procedures, as a program that promotes access to fresh whole foods while supporting local agriculture. This district document also encourages the establishment of school gardens to provide students with experiences in planting, harvesting, preparing, serving and tasting foods.
A comprehensive farm to school program combines these two basic elements: Promoting the purchase of local products and education about food.
School gardens have been established at several area schools: Sharpstein Elementary and Garrison MS (2007), Prospect Point Elementary (2008), Green Park Elementary (2009), and Edison Elementary (2011). Each garden was constructed and financed through volunteer efforts.
In May 2012, funds to support F2S were donated by First Fruits Fund, a component fund of Blue Mountain Community Foundation and Sharpstein PTA garden committee. This support allowed additional grant writing and the initiation of the F2S program. A USDA grant was awarded in November 2012 to support a 2 year F2S program.
Overarching Program Goals of the USDA Farm to School Grant, November 2012 - November 2014
- To establish a sustainable local food purchasing method, increasing the amount of funds spent on locally and regionally grown foods. To accomplish this, the F2S program is addressing the challenges posed to nutrition services in both purchasing and utilizing local products. By broadening and strengthening ties to local farmers, consulting with specialists to ensure proper procurement processes and supporting professional development of nutrition services staff, local foods should be a continued part of school lunches in Walla Walla. We’ve started with a Harvest of the Month program, highlighting a locally grown product and the farm where it was grown, each month.
- To provide new standardized recipes and professional training for nutritional services staff. This will be accomplished in cooperation with the Community College Wine Country Culinary Institute in addition to area volunteer chefs.
- Promote school connections to area farms. All third grade students will visit farms twice during school field trips. Interested teachers will receive support in establishing an internet link between their classroom and a local farm. A local farm tour event in coordination with WA Dept. of Agriculture will familiarize nutrition services staff with local farms/farmers. Connecting local products in the cafeteria to the farm where it was grown through poster, cards and farmer visits will encourage students to consider their food choices. – Check out the Harvest of the Month Program.
- Expand the school garden program. Garden coordinators will be supported to expand the existing garden curriculum where gardens already exist and new gardens will be installed at two elementary schools.
- Educate parents, students and community members about cooking and local agriculture. Cooking classes will inspire and inform parents about cooking healthy meals on a budget that taste great.
Although there are funds to support the coordination of farm to school activities, many of the activities will rely on volunteer support.
Please check the volunteer page if you are interested in getting involved!
Oversight Committee Members
Beth Thiel, Farm to School Coordinator, district parent
Pam Milleson, WWPS Nutrition Services Director
Karen Jorgenson, Kitchen Manager – Edison Elementary
Danae Darby, Teacher – Sharpstein Elementary
Lucy Gregoire, Teacher-Green Park Elementary
Lindsey Butcher, Teacher – FFA Walla Walla High School
Emily Asmus, Farmer – Welcome Table Farm
Holly Howard, Executive Director Lincoln High School Health Center – district parent
Nikki Gryler, District Parent – Nurse, cook
Heidi Chapin, District Parent – Environmental Educator