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October is National Farm to School Month

Jenny Lester Moffitt, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Nick Anicich, Farm to School Program Lead for the CDFA Office of Farm to Fork, met with Cathy Olsen of Winters Farm to School on September 24, 2019 to learn more about the work of Winters Farm to School. Moffitt, a fifth-generation from Winters, and Anicich helped distribute fresh food to over 320 students at the Kids Farmer’s Market held at Waggoner School that day.

October is National Farm to School Month and is celebrated all across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and in U.S. Territories. From school gardens and field trips to nearby agricultural operations…to serving locally grown foods every day on cafeteria trays…Farm to School programs are a win-win for our school children, our farmers and our local economies.

On September 24, 2019, Jenny Lester Moffitt, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and Nick Anicich, Farm to School Program Lead for the CDFA Office of Farm to Fork met with Cathy Olsen, a founding member of Winters Farm to School, to learn more about the work of Winters Farm to School. Moffitt and Anicich toured the Waggoner School kitchen, school garden and helped distribute food to over 320 kids who participated in the Kids Farmer’s Market held that afternoon.

“By developing food access initiatives alongside local food procurement, school gardens, and food and agriculture education in the classroom, Cathy and the Winters Farm to School Team are providing a model to inspire districts all across the state to start implementing farm to school” said Nick Anicich.

“Winters is fortunate to have a thriving Farm to School program which teams with Yolo County farmers to serve our school children the healthiest, freshest meals possible” says Cathy Olsen, Food Services Director for the Winters Joint Unified School District. “Our students have come to expect and enjoy eating a rich diversity of fruits and vegetables served as part of their school lunches. We purchase and serve whatever is in season,” said Olsen. “With Farm to School, our children understand that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store; it’s grown by farmers right here in our community and in the two gardens at Waggoner and Rominger Schools. By serving seasonal foods our children are learning about growing cycles. They have learned to look forward to pumpkins in the fall, oranges in the winter and cauliflower and broccoli in the spring.”

“Winters Farm to School is also very fortunate to partner with the Yolo Food Bank to host a weekly Kids Farmer’s Market at Waggoner School,” says Gloria Lopez, President of Winters Farm to School. “This year we are also serving Rominger School students, so about 320 students per week. Students take home ten to fifteen pounds of fresh food every week, which for families facing food scarcity, is a very welcome boost. We also bring in local farmers who talk with the kids about what it’s like to be a farmer and some kids have decided that’s the career for them! We also have county nutritionists conduct studies to measure the benefits of promoting and providing healthier food choices for our kids. In short, our Kids Farmer’s Market is a really great way for kids to learn about choosing healthier foods and learning to prepare those foods with their families at home with the recipe that’s sent home each week with the food.”

In 2010, Congress declared October National Farm to School Month, recognizing the important role farm to school plays in promoting well-being among children and strong local economies.

“Farm to School is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity,” said Colsen. “Sadly, one in four children in our county doesn’t always have enough to eat. And children who are hungry don’t perform as well in school and also have more absenteeism and health problems. Our local Farm to School program helps to fill in some of those critical gaps and needs so all of our school children can grow and thrive.”

There are important economic benefits for Farm to School programs as well. In the most recent USDA Farm to School Census, schools reported purchasing nearly $800 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food processors in their communities.

For further information about Winters Farm to School, please call Cathy Olsen at 530-795-6109.

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