Although I’m not THAT far out of high school, my memories of cafeteria lunches are fairly limited, which leads me to believe that the food served was…well…unmemorable. That is, it wasn’t good enough to be noteworthy and it wasn’t bad enough to be permanently seared into my mind. I have foggy images of square pizza, sloppy joes, grilled cheese, lasagna, and a salad bar which in the 1990s (and I’m dating myself) was a groundbreaking, yet sadly disappointing and unappetizing, addition.
Given my, and I’m supposing most people’s, middling school lunch experience, I was extremely inspired when I learned about the DC Farm to School Network, a coalition of advocates working to connect Washington, DC schools to local farmers to get more healthy, local foods into school cafeterias. With the ultimate goal to improve child health, reconnect students with where food comes from, provide health, food, and environmental education opportunities and support the local food economy.
The DC Farm to School Network is our local lead for the National Farm to School Network, a nation-wide organization established in 2007 that focuses on serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, helps establish waste management programs like composting, and offers experiential education opportunities such as planting school gardens, cooking demonstrations and farm tours.
There are currently a wide variety of farm to school programs up and running because of the DC coalition. DC Central Kitchen‘ s Fresh Start Catering provides meals to 7 DC public schools, Next Step Public Charter School, and Washington Jesuit Academy. These meals are made from scratch using as many local products and ingredients as possible. CentroNia’s pre-school programs and DC Bilingual Public Charter School receive 600 fresh meals everyday featuring produce from Kilmer’s Farm and Orchard in West Viriginia. The schools also have a garden, overseen by City Blossoms, that provides nutritional diversity as well as educational opportunities. The network also facilitates meetings between DC School officials and local growers/suppliers/distributors, so nutritional needs and budgets can be met.
As this week marks the first anniversary of DC resident Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, it’s important that in tackling America’s childhood obesity problem, we not only get kids to be more active but get them to eat healthier. The DC Farm to School Network recognizes this challenge and to meet it is hosting workshops to educate school and food service vendors to explain the Healthy School Act, and offer best practices, tools & resources to help schools comply.
As a lover/supporter of the DC region’s fantastic local produce and a believer that instilling healthy eating and living habits at an early age is extremely important, the DC Farm to School Network is truly a great organization with a truly great mission.