Friday, November 26, 2010

Farm to School Week in D.C.

It's time for this movement to explode! I'm very excited about what's happening here.

- Kathleen Merrigan, USDA, on the Washington, D.C. Farm to School Movement

By Andrea Northup

The week of October 12-15 2010, marked the second annual D.C. Farm to School Week - a celebration of farm-fresh fruits and veggies in D.C. schools! In total, 28 schools coordinated events f0r the week. Over 500 students experienced farm field trips where they harvested local produce and learned about farming in the region. Over 1,100 students experienced cooking demonstrations where professional chefs prepared local foods with students in healthy, delicious ways.

Throughout the week, school menus featured locally grown produce in dishes like salads and seasoned vegetables, serving over 30,000 students in cafeterias across the District. For example, Revolution Foods celebrated the week by serving Carrot, Raisin and Apple Salad in each of its D.C. schools. DC Central Kitchen featured local honey apple braised collard greens and DCPS students served by Chatewells enjoyed Asian slaw with locally grown cabbage.

The week began with a kick-off celebration marking the start of D.C. Farm to School Week and D.C. School Garden Week. We were joined by White House Chef Sam Kass, White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan. The program featured a Top Chef-style competition between four local chefs and their student assistants. Student judges voted Chef Tee with his Apple Cranberry Crisp as the winner! Keep your eyes peeled for his recipe in DCPS school meals this December.

D.C. schoolchildren visited both rural and urban farms to learn about farm life and to be a part of growing and harvesting food. Kids picked apples, harvested kale, explored greenhouses, and even held warm chicken eggs. Two farmers even traveled to the schools, bringing truckloads of produce, seeds for planting, and a 12-pound cabbage that kept the kids talking for days!

When they came back from the farm, the kids were so excited and ready to share. They were introduced where vegetables really come from, which I don’t think they really knew. Now they may be willing to explore something different, something they may not have tried before.

- Principal Angela Tilghman, Garfield Elementary

More than 1,100 students had the opportunity to participate in cooking demonstrations with a host of dynamic local chefs. Many prepared recipes using the fruits and vegetables they harvested earlier in the week. Students helped create kale salads, braised apples and collard greens, tomato bread salads, and tofu vegetable dumplings, among other healthy recipes highlighting seasonal and local produce. [Link to recipe book] For many students, this was their first time ever tasting leafy greens like kale and chard, and fall crops like squash and sweet potatoes. They were asking for seconds and thirds!

I’ve never seen so many kids eat salads!

- Parent organizer at Brent Elementary

D.C. Farm to School Week was more than just classroom lessons about growing food and eating healthy - it was a chance for our entire community to come together. As teachers engaged in the Week’s activities with their students; chefs, grocers and restaurants shared their time and talents; farmers opened their fields to inquisitive children; and parents helped coordinate events, we saw a community working together to grow a healthier generation.

Andrea Northup is coordinator for the D.C. Farm to School Network.

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