Farm to Table in the City of Seattle: Encouraging Lifelong Healthy Eating
by Danielle Baer |
The following article was originally published in the Washington School Nutrition Association Newsletter Apple Press in the summer of 2017
By Natalie Kahn, School's Out Washington
With the arrival of spring, youth serving providers participating in the City of Seattle’s Farm to Table Program are seeing an influx of fresh, locally grown produce, which they incorporate into menus and nutrition education curriculum. Buying local and seasonal produce has become a popular trend in our state and throughout the nation, however, the high price of organic and locally grown foods has traditionally deterred many In Seattle. The Farm to Table program awards funds to providers who serve low-income children and youth, to purchase local foods. Children are introduced to a wide variety of seasonal foods and, in some cases, taught how to grow and prepare them. Carol Cartmell, the City of Seattle Human Services Supervisor of the Child Care Nutrition Program, is a wonderful resource regarding the history of the city’s Farm to Table program.
The program began in 2010, Cartmell says, when the city awarded funds to eight youth serving providers to purchase locally grown produce. The funds were made available through grants from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and later through the HumanLinks Foundation. "Initially the city partnered with just a few farms that delivered fresh produce to sites, but over the years we were able to partner with the Northwest Agricultural Business Center to help form the Puget Sound Food Hub, which aggregates farm fresh food and distributes it to sites.” Sites order produce on the Puget Sound Food Hub’s website, which is then delivered to them; this has increased access to local foods for sites. Recently the city partnered with FarmFresh Local Foods as well.
In addition to increasing access to locally grown food, nutrition education and gardening are cornerstones of the program. “The partnership with the Tilth Alliance added nutrition education, gardening and community kitchens, where kids and families can learn about a variety of new foods. So many kids do not know where their food comes from. With Farm to Table there is more variety in their diets and they are learning how fresh foods taste different, they are learning more about the earth and encouraging their parents to buy a variety of foods.” The community kitchens welcome children and their families to make new and exciting meals that are nutritious and delicious.
Increasing access to local foods is important for many sites and families but is not always easy. “Sometimes youth serving programs must decide how to fit more expensive food items into their budget.” Despite misconceptions, Cartmell says that “fresh foods in season are not more expensive, and Farm to Table tries to incorporate this seasonal eating,” something the Tilth Association educates participants about as well. Cartmell recalled one informational session where a nutritionist from Tilth Alliance brought a variety of fruits and vegetables and asked adults and children alike when they thought those food items were available, “the kids who had been in the program knew a lot more than the adults.”
Today it is easier for many youth serving programs and other organizations to incorporate local farm fresh foods into their menus. The Puget Sound Food Hub and the FarmFresh Local Foods Hub bring food from a variety of local farms into one place, making it more convenient for the consumer and benefitting local businesses. The popularity of the program has increased along with the number of organizations participating in the program. While the city cannot fund additional sites this year, Cartmell encourages youth programs with capacity to look into purchasing food from the Puget Sound Food Hub or from FarmFresh Local Foods. The experiences that youth have in these programs has a lasting impact, according to Cartmell, “if we can give kids a variety of tastes early on, you are encouraging that for a lifetime.”
To learn more about the Farm to Table Program, contact Carol Cartmell at Carol.Cartmell@seattle.gov. For additional questions about meal options across the day and year, contact Natalie Kahn, Afterschool and Summer Meals VISTA at School’s Out Washington, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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