Farm to School Person of the Year 2011: Whitney Bateson

Since she was hired almost four years ago as the Resident Dietician for D.C. Public Schools at Chartwells-Thompsons, there has never been a doubt that Whitney Bateson wasn’t in the business to serve the children of the District of Columbia. Whitney has been a driving force in making DCPS school meals healthier, more sustainable, and more locally-sourced. At Chartwells she was tasked with creating menus and assuring compliance for approximately 125 school DCPS sites serving breakfast, lunch and in some cases dinner each day. Planning approximately 70,000 meals each day is no small task, but Whitney Bateson took the challenge head-on.

Here ia Whitney with Jeff Mills, Director of Food & Nutrition Services for DCPS,
learning from a vendor at a healthy food showcase.  Look at the concentration!!!
When I first met Whitney, we were both new to Washington, DC. I called her up to talk about farm to school programs, and she patiently walked me through the process of how food travels from farm to tray in the D.C. school meal system. I immediately sensed that she shared my enthusiasm, and she took on the challenge of sourcing more local produce for DCPS school meals.

Whitney fast went from farm to school novice to expert at Chartwells. She scheduled meetings with produce distributors, researched local farms, worked out the logistics of local purchasing for special events (like Strawberries & Salad Greens), and enthusiastically participated in many of the farm to school workshops, events, field trips and meetings hosted by the D.C. Farm to School Network. It’s truly been a pleasure watching her knowledge and passion for farm to school grow over the years.

Whitney was our most enthusiastic Farm to School Field Trip participant! 
Here she is holding sweetcorn on our trip to Delaware (third from right).

Not only do I respect Whitney’s work, I admire her incredible dedication to child nutrition; her willingness to push for change against great odds; her consistently positive and outgoing attitude; her natural curiosity (including a willingness to ask difficult questions); and her unwavering work ethic. These traits will take Whitney far as she moves on from her position at DCPS to become Director of Wellness Initiatives at Chartwells, where she will take on the role of coordinating sustainability and wellness programs for Chartwells across the country.

As someone who’s seen what DCPS school meals menus looked like four years ago, I commend Chartwells for now serving minimally-processed, healthy meals featuring a local food almost every day in the spring and fall (and a few days per week in the winter). I want to acknowledge Whitney Bateson for playing a lead role in this transformation to more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and local produce. Granted school meal reform in Washington, DC has been a result of local and national partnerships, government agencies, and policies, but Whitney Bateson is one of the true unsung heroes of the movement. We are sad to see her move on to the national arena, but glad she still calls Washington, DC home!


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