D.C. Farm to School Week Recap!

The students at Cleveland Elementary with Chef Lauren say it loud and clear - third annual D.C. Farm to School Week was a huge success!  About 5,000 students engaged in farm-to-table activities and over 200 school cafeterias featured seasonal, local food. Farmers, chefs, food service staff, parents, teachers, and volunteers came together to connect students with where food comes from. October 3-7, 2011 was a week full of excitement, fun, and discovery!

The week began with a kick-off event, which also marked the start of National Farm to School Month in October. Four local chefs and their student assistants competed to make the tastiest seasonal salads for a panel of judges. Using only school garden produce and healthy ingredients from Whole Foods, chef Lauren Von Der Pool won the judges over with her tangy kale salad. White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley, and other V.I.P.’s and community members joined in the celebration at Thurgood Marshall Academy.

During the week, schools in all 8 wards of the District featured seasonal, local produce in their school meals. Just a few examples - Chartwells served roasted local butternut squash and local bok choi in a vegetable stir fry. D.C. Central Kitchen’s Fresh Start Catering cooked up roasted local broccoli and baked local sweet potato fries. Revolution Foods served fresh local pears and braised local collard greens with their BBQ chicken. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

45 schools engaged approximately 5,000 children in hands-on food, farm and nutrition education during the week. 41 schools were visited by local chefs from around the area for interactive cooking demonstrations. For example, Thomas Marr from Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza made roasted squash and grilled apple salad with 5th graders at Janney Elementary. 19 schools were visited by local farmers, who taught students about what it’s like to work on a farm. Polly from the Acokeek Foundation even brought chickens in to visit Garfield Elementary students! 10 schools went on field trips to nearby farms. For example, Cleveland Elementary’s 3rd graders planted garlic, weeded the herbs, and made morning glory crowns at Common Good City Farm. A handful of other schools coordinated activities such as farmers’ market visits, film screenings with families of “What’s On Your Plate” for parents and families, and veggie taste tests. We even sent volunteers into school cafeterias dressed as giant carrots and peapods to encourage kids to eat their veggies.

The D.C. Farm to School Network at Arcadia and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education coordinated D.C. Farm to School Week, in conjunction with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, Chipotle, Whole Foods, USDA Forest Service, Lululemon, the Capital Area Food Bank, school partners, farmers, chefs, school food service professionals and tons of dedicated volunteers. We send a HUGE thank you to all who were so critical at making D.C. Farm to School Week a success! We also thank our sponsors DC Hunger Solutions, Dan Schiff, and WGirls DC for their contributions.

This quote from a DCPS teacher sums up how the week's activities complemented her classroom instruction:

 "I really appreciate...the experience! It's so great when I am in the middle of a lesson and my scholars make a connection from their experience with D.C. Farm to School Week ('like when Chef Jerry did...' or 'when Farmer Mary Ellen did...') with a new lesson that I am teaching them. What a great feeling for a teacher; not only does it show that the students were well engaged in the previous lesson activity but it shows they are engaged in the new lesson when they make that connection... a priceless moment in teaching!"


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