Winters Farm To School donates $70K to school district
Winters Farm to School President Vicky Tufts Jacobs and Treasurer Cathleen Olsen present Winters school board President Carrie Green with a check for $70K for the school district. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)
Winters Farm to School presented to the Winters Joint Unified School District with a check for $70K at the Jan. 19 school board meeting. The donation is just one of the organization’s means to provide Winters students with local produce and agricultural education.
Since it started back in 2011, Winters Farm To School has been on a mission to raise funds to provide fresh local produce, fruits and nuts for the children’s school meal programs, to educate children about the long-term wellness benefits of healthy eating habits and to reconnect the community’s families and children with the rich, agricultural heritage of Winters.
“All the money is raised through private philanthropy, people donate money to us and it’s very welcomed. We do receive private donations every year from community members who believe in our work and have witnessed what we’re doing,” said Cathy Olsen, Winters JUSD Director of Food Services and Winters Farm to School Treasurer and a founding trustee. “You notice we get attention statewide for that because we are working really hard at it. When we get the money for produce, we go out and buy it and serve it for school meals. We try to have something fresh from a local farm in every salad bar every school day.”
According to the staff report from the Jan. 19 meeting, Winters is now a leader in providing fresh fruit and veggies through the school meal programs with nearly 68 percent purchased directly from local farmers and 98 percent purchased locally, all because of Winters Farm to School
“It was so rewarding and is a great feeling to donate this money, and I can speak for the board in that regard. It’s rewarding especially when you come around and work with the children in the gardens or in the cafeterias with the kids,” said Olsen. “It’s just rewarding to watch them during lunchtime being exposed to the produce, eating the produce and coming back for seconds. And if the community wasn’t engaged and didn’t support our work and fundraisers, we couldn’t do this for the kids.”
Winters JUSD Superintendent Rody Boonchouy said he is thrilled to collaborate with an organization like Winters Farm to School to provide students with knowledge and nutrition.
“This is a testament to the strong partnership we have with our community. I have a lot of gratitude for the support and investment from Winters to our nutritional services program,” said Boonchouy. “The funds will be used for buying local produce that will be going to our school meals, and that’s awesome for our kids. It’s going towards our school gardens as well to support them which also provides a way to connect our students to the deep agricultural history of this area.”
Winters students had previously been given an opportunity to engage in the Kids Farmers Market, where they used paper money to buy fresh produce at school, and learn about the nutritional benefits and some interesting facts about the products they were buying. The food services team currently sends home recipes each month with the school lunch menus so that families can engage in the knowledge and try new meals.
Booonchouy noted how funding for the programs goes beyond just bringing fresh foods to students, it in turn, benefits the local economy of local farmers and ranches.
“It also goes to the kids’ farmers market coordinator stipend so we have some leadership and oversight for some of the programmatic work that happens. It’s always great when we have collaborations that are mutually beneficial, so not only is it supporting our kids, but our local farmers as well,” said Boonchouy. “I’d also say we’re a model for the future of school nutrition services in the state given the robust and healthy partnership we have with our local farmers.”
Boonchouy expressed his profound gratitude and respect for Olsen’s leadership and how she’s used her community connections and networking to keep the collaboration between Winters Farm to School and the Winters JUSD thriving for the benefit of the students.
Board President Carrie Green said she loves seeing photos of students of all the different kinds of foods made available by Winters Farm to School.
“This is the first time some of these kids are able to try all of these different types of foods that you’re able to bring to our campuses, and that’s just so great,” Green said.
Trustees took action to unanimously approved the acceptance of the donation.