By Steve Brown
Getting Washington-grown foods into schools is the goal of the annual Taste Washington Day, this year on Sept. 25.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington School Nutrition Association invite both producers and schools to sign up for the event.
"We've been participating with the School Nutrition Association since 2010," said Acacia Larson, WSDA's outreach and education specialist. "We've had 50 farms in the past, and we'd like see that level of response again."
Success is not based on the number of participants, she said, and neither of the agencies dictates the arrangements between farmers and schools.
"We take farms that sign up and schools that want to participate and match them up," she said. "Schools take it from there. They send out lists of what they’re looking for, gather the information and decide who they get the food from."
Sample menus include chicken with rice or roasted chicken, barbecue lentil loaf, roasted vegetables, sliced fresh vegetables, Moroccan carrot salad, dinner rolls, yogurt parfait with seasonal fruit and low-fat milk.
Schools and growers work out details, such as how much processing is required, Larson said. Some school districts have central kitchens, some have individual kitchens and some have very little available. They might work with a local processor who gets product from local growers.
Product prices are also determined by individual schools and individual growers. "Some farms bend over backward," she said. "They want to make sure kids are getting the product, and they're getting product into the school."
In general, delivery is the grower's responsibility. "That's one of the questions we ask farms," she said. "When talking with the schools, we can assess whether that farm is a good match."
The WSDA and the School Nutrition Association also encourage schools to include other activities, such as inviting a farmer to lunch, visiting a farm or farmers' market, or hosting local FFA students.
"We want Washington's kids to spend Taste Washington Day considering the farmers who grow their food," said Tricia Kovacs, outreach and education coordinator at WSDA.