Fresh sliced apples, cucumbers, broccoli, red peppers and even pluots (a hybrid of apricots and plums) were a part of six local salad bars this past Wednesday, September 28 and it wasn’t at some new fancy restaurant.
This beautiful array of fruits and veggies was actually being served at all six of the elementary schools in Lake Stevens.
Students got to participate in Taste Washington Day as a way to celebrate agriculture in our state and to help students understand where their food comes from.
Twenty school districts around the state were served a locally grown school lunch which was prefaced with education opportunities for students to learn about the farms that feed us.
For the event all the elementary schools were decorated with Farm to School Posters, green grass and baskets of decorative fruits and veggies. Window clings of animals made out of fruits and veggies, and bright balloons were attached to the child-sized salad bar cart to help celebrate the event with students.
Even the food service staff got into the fun by wearing veggie themed aprons and bandanas around their necks.
Mollie Langum, Lake Stevens School District’s Food and Nutrition Supervisor began the process last summer of connecting with local farmers to see what products would be in season to include in menus or to bring into the cafeteria to taste test with students.
Langum was able to secure sliced cukes grown from Lake Stevens’ own Carleton Farms along with sweet and crispy Gala apples and juicy purple pluots from the Okanogan Valley and the broccoli florets, celery sticks, salad greens and sweet red peppers from Shawn’s Produce in Everett.
All of the fruits and veggies were pre-cut making it easier for the kids to eat as well as making the produce more appealing.
“We find that when the produce is cut for them the kids will eat it and enjoy it,” Langum said.
When kids have been given whole apples, many of them tend to take a bite and throw the rest away or not bite into them at all. That wasn’t the case at Highland Elementary where the students scooped up piles of the sweet treats and many were excited to get a taste of the juicy looking pluots.
Will, a fifth grader at Highland, is used to eating fruits and veggies at home. He said he had eaten pluots on occasion and looked forward to taking a bite, however, he was most excited to eat the peppers.
“I like the peppers, they taste like candy,” he said.
His friend Riley, also a fifth grader, was pleasantly surprised when he bit into his pluot.
“They taste a lot like plums but they’re better,” he said.
The kids who took advantage of the school lunch program were given the option of helping themselves to the kid sized salad bar. Many of those who brought their own lunch were excited to see their friends’ new sweet treats.
Ten-year-old Lindsey Gibson said, “I might even consider getting hot lunch now.”
Students were given ‘I Tried It’ stickers after they tasted the delicious additions to the lunch menu.
Langum hopes to implement this program on a regular basis in the near future.
Lake Stevens is one of twenty school districts in Western Washington that have been chosen by the Fresh Food in Schools (FFS) project to develop fledgling farm-to-school initiatives into nutritionally and economically beneficial programs featuring a great diversity of the produce grown in our State. FFS is a project of The Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network and is funded by WSDA through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, the Washington Women’s Foundation, the Whatcom Community Foundation’s Sustainable Whatcom Farm 2 School Fund and private individual donations.