Students of South Whidbey Elementary School enjoyed a feast of local South Whidbey offerings Wednesday afternoon during the school’s celebration of Taste Washington Day.
Apple sauce, kale salad, lettuces, bok choy, carrots, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and watermelon radishes garnished the table as students, from second through fourth grades, lined up to take their pick.
The event was part of a statewide effort to educate students about where food comes from. Each item was grown less than five miles away from the school. Produce was provided by gardens from South Whidbey Academy, Langley Middle School, the elementary school and from Deep Harvest Farm.
Everything on the display was edible, from the pumpkins to the flower petals, which was an important aspect of the event for Mary Fisher, founder of Whidbey Island Nourishes.
Fisher helped organize the event and wanted to show students different varieties of produce.
“We want to make it so appealing they will want it,” she said. “We want kids to get that connection between growing and eating.”
Fisher hopes students will go home and ask for the same nutritious foods. She said a large part of this event is educating students about nutrition and to eat better. The educational process is a little easier for children at this age, she said.
Linda Racicot, school board vice-chairwoman of the South Whidbey School District, attended the event and said seeing the enthusiasm from the children was wonderful.
“I think it will empower them to know lettuce doesn’t always come in plastic,” she said. “It comes from the ground.”
Margaret Nattress, 9, said she enjoyed having farmers bring food to school. Some students haven’t had food from the garden and she was glad the farmers brought it, she said.
Lunches at school were not the best, Margaret said, and the burgers often tasted fake. Someday, she would like to see food from the gardens in her school lunch — especially kale, her favorite.
Nattress won’t be waiting too long for that lunch either.
Bruce Kinney, food service director with the district’s food service provider Chartwells, said produce from local and school farms could be on menu by the 2014-2015 school year.
Kinney has worked with volunteer Cary Peterson getting the program off the ground. Peterson spearheaded the effort of getting the gardens at schools and wants to see that progress into produce at the lunch table.
Peterson presented a new guide by the food service provider to the school board during its meeting Wednesday, Sept. 25. The guide shows how school gardens can provide produce to the cafeteria.
Peterson said this was a major breakthrough for the farm program at the schools, and the partnership with the food service provider offers huge potential.
Joshua Marks, 10, said his favorite produce Wednesday was the lettuce.
“It isn’t like the store’s lettuce, it’s fresh … I like it much better,” he said. “The lettuce at school isn’t as good as this.”
By the end of the day, the display was nearly empty as Fisher began giving away apples, cucumbers and anything left for students to take home.