With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many roles changed and shifted. The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Farm To School program is a great example of that.
In February, the program was meeting with districts across the state, trying to determine how farmers could better meet needs in the 20-21 school year. However, once the virus broke out, it became more important that the Ag community provide health and nutritious foods to school district now stretched thin. Chris Iberle with Farm to School says the biggest challenge initially was determining what farmers could do to help.
“Schools just aren’t cooking as much food anymore, and that’s really narrowed the scope of the types of products they can use, because it’s got to be something that can go in a sack lunch, or in a multi-day grocery box that they’re sending home with families.”
That proved to be very challenging at first, with many school district statewide reporting food shortages of varying kinds. Iberle said they remained busy surveying those districts, determining the exact need, and how the Farm to School could help local schools.
“And the good news is that a of [previously reported] shortages have been pretty much ironed out, so schools are pretty well supplied with what they need.”
With the USDA extending the school lunch program through August 31st to help families during the coronavirus pandemic, the Farm To School Program will remain vital in the coming months. Iberle said as 2020 continues, he’s confident Washington farmers will continue to answer the call to helping children in need eat nutritious foods.
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