From Farm to Table: Connecting Farmers with Senior Meal and Childcare Programs
Rochelle Carlson (right) and staff accept Catholic Community Services' first produce delivery from Ralph's Greenhouse.
Chef Tom French, Experience Food Project; Native foods nutritionist Valerie Segrest; and Muckleshoot senior program manager Wendy Burdette created an eventful and meaningful curriculum for a tribal cooks' retreat promoting the use of fresh local and traditional ingredients.
Bill Brown of Full Circle introduces children at Prospect Preschool to raw kale, radishes, turnips and kale raab.
Throughout King County, senior meal programs and childcare centers are benefiting from Farm to Table, a new program that is bringing them fresh, locally-grown produce. By directly connecting local farmers with meal providers, Farm to Table's goal is to help meal programs serve more fresh, nutritious foods at prices they can afford. An added benefit is support for local farmers and the local economy.
Farm to Table is funded by Public Health—Seattle & King County through a federal grant from Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project. As part of the federal economic stimulus program, CPPW projects focus on systems change—improving how things work. Farm to Table connects two systems—farming and meal programs—that had limited interactions, but which have a shared mission of feeding people. Farmers want to see their food eaten and appreciated, while senior meal and childcare providers want to provide the best quality food possible for their participants.
Similarly, Farm to Table is a partnership of several organizations that have not worked together traditionally but want to make healthy food available for the people who need it most:
- Aging & Disability Services, a funder for senior meal programs, leads the project.
- Puget Sound Food Network (PSFN), a program of the Northwest Agriculture Business Center, provides the key linkages to local farmers, recruiting farmers to participate, and building relationships.
- The Farm to Schools Program, Washington State Department of Agriculture, assesses the ability of meal program providers to receive, store, and prepare more fresh produce, and makes recommendations to help them do this.
- The Seattle Human Services Department's Youth and Family Empowerment division oversees childcare programs for the City of Seattle, working in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation.
- King County Housing Authority contracts with childcare providers in its subsidized housing communities.
- Catholic Community Services (CCS), Chicken Soup Brigade, Senior Services Community Dining, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe provide Farm to Table senior meals.
In spite of the wet, cold winter and spring the Pacific Northwest has endured, local farms managed to complete Farm to Table deliveries, including leeks in January, parsnips and cabbage in February, and 400 pounds of potatoes in March, just in time for St. Patrick's Day celebrations at the senior meal programs.
Puget Sound Food Network Farm to Table coordinator Karen Mauden sees these initial deliveries as test runs: "They help us figure out how to work together before the growing season goes into full swing," she says. One of the goals of the project is to develop a sustainable model for cooperative purchasing and distribution but, as Karen points out, "building relationships is a critical first step."
The project began last fall with a focus on senior meal programs but expanded to childcare, thanks to the creativity, energy and enthusiasm of Farm to Table partners. Eight Seattle childcare providers participating in a Farm to Table pilot will order four or more produce deliveries from local farms. Green Acre Radio (KBCS 91.3) reporter Martha Baskin was on hand to record the sounds of the first Farm to Table delivery at Prospect Preschool earlier this month.
The enthusiasm of project partners, farmers, meal providers, and meal program participants has been tremendous. Muckleshoot Indian Tribe senior program coordinator Wendy Burdette says, "The words 'farm to table' have a lot of meaning for our elders." She has observed tribal communities' increased interest in returning to traditional ways of harvesting and eating healthier foods. Farm to Table is one part of that process.
Catholic Community Services Farm to Table coordinator Rochelle Carlson points out, "This is a good time to try to source more locally...because of high fuel prices and weather-related price increases on things like lettuce, local may prove to be less expensive."
For more information on the Farm to Table project, contact Maria Langlais at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 684-0651.
Puget Sound Food Network Blog
Communities Putting Prevention to Work
Photos courtesy of Puget Sound Food Network