Washington Supporting Partners
Washington has a strong network of public and private organizations working together to improve school food and establish links between farms and schools, and to introduce policies to support farm to school activities. The Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington School Nutrition Association, Washington State Dept. of Health, Washington State University, Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, Northwest Agriculture Business Center, Seattle Children's, Washington Environmental Council, and many local health departments, nonprofits and school districts are some of the partners collaborating to seek farm to school solutions.
The Washington State Dept. of Agriculture is dedicated to fostering relationships between schools and agricultural producers in Washington state. WSDA farm to school programs support expanding economic opportunities for farmers, while educating students about the connections between food, farming, health and the environment. The agency provides information, inspiration and assistance and policy solutions for those working to supply healthy Washington-grown food and related education to youth in the state. WSDA programs and services include:
- Taste Washington Day: On the first Wednesday in October, schools around the state serve a locally sourced meal and provide education and activities to celebrate the farms that feed us. Washington School Nutrition Association originated Taste Washington Day, and now partners with WSDA to join in promoting the event and provide support to match up farms, schools and distributors to facilitate the purchasing process. School districts and their local partners work together to make the event their own.
- Farm to School Mobile Workshops: Mobile workshops provide an opportunity for farms and schools to see each other in action and learn about the realities of operations on farms and in school kitchens. Sessions include farm and food hub visits, peer-led, hands-on kitchen trainings for foodservice staff, networking opportunities and farmer meetings to discuss regional farm to school strategies and needs. Travel time allows for interaction among participants and encourages potential cooperation to develop supply chain solutions specific to their region.
- Farm and School Food Service Trainings: Washington Farm to School is developing and providing farm trainings on institutional markets, including product needs, how to approach schools, and food safety and insurance requirements. School foodservice trainings include direct purchasing, preparing fresh produce and seasonal menu planning. Trainings are tailored based on feedback from farms and schools.
- Technical assistance and resources on farm to school and local food procurement: After publishing "A School's Guide to Purchasing Washington-Grown Food" with the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, Washington Environmental Council and Public Health-Seattle and King County in 2011, WSDA has provided workshops, technical assistance and networking sessions to support schools, farms and food distributors in understanding procurement rules and methods, including the Geographic Preference Option. WSDA and its partners conduct pilot programs in specific areas of the state, in order to develop and share best practices that work in Washington schools and other institutions. Washington is also one of 8 states participating in USDA's Pilot Project for Unprocessed Fruits & Vegetables, with WSDA providing education, outreach, and technical assistance to schools and vendors interested in participating in the Pilot.
In addition to the statewide efforts, there are many regional and local farm to school projects. These include the Whatcom County and Central WA Farm to School Initiatives, the Jefferson County Farm to School Coalition, the South King County Farm to School Collaborative, the King County Farm to Table Initiative, and many individual school district farm to school programs.
(Photo Credit for Banner above: Tiffany Brooks Photography)