The Farm to Table partnership, led by the City of Seattle in collaboration with Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC), Puget Sound Food Hub, Seattle Tilth, Associated Recreation Council, YMCA of Greater Seattle and others has successfully wrapped up its fifth year of programming. The goal of the program is to link local area farms with public health, human service and educational programs that serve large numbers of low-income families, to increase healthy food access and economic development for sustainable area farms.
In 2015, the HumanLinks Foundation honored its mission to foster healthy and sustainable agricultural communities by funding, educational and community-focused programs including Farm to Table, thus enabling the unprecedented expansion of the program to serve more than 3,700 children and families in 66 childcare, preschool, and before and after school programs in Seattle and King County.
The Farm to Table partnership began in late 2010 through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant. In 2011, eight farms individually sold and delivered produce to a handful meal sites through connections made through the Puget Sound Food Network and its summer Seattle Wholesale Markets. In 2015, approximately forty farms coordinated their sales, aggregation and distribution through the Puget Sound Food Hub. “The principles of wellness, connection through food, sustainability, resiliency-building, food justice, inclusion, education, seasonality, streamlined online purchasing and starting where programs are, translate through every aspect of practice. We heard repeatedly from participants this year how much it meant to provide high quality food to children and families in need,” explained Natalie Thomson, of Seattle Human Services Department.
According to Georgina Ramirez, site director at YMCA Jane Addams Middle School in Seattle, “The Farm to Table partnership has been invaluable. We are able to provide fresh produce daily to students in our after school programs, a feature that the students absolutely adore and love. The produce has been used in our international cooking clubs, our vegan cooking clubs, as well as a tool to discuss the importance of nutrition. Students have been able to make fresh smoothies and engage in exploratory learning activities with the outcome of developing a taste for nutritious and healthy snacks.”
Boldly Grown Farm, part of Viva Farms incubator farm in Burlington, WA, and certified organic as part of the Viva Farms growers group, began selling their produce through the Puget Sound Food Hub in September and quickly noticed orders coming in from the meal sites. “We have been super excited to be getting orders from day care centers, as part of our desire as farmers has been to supply local, sustainable food to institutions, food banks and schools,” said Amy Frye. “It is so great to hear that we are not only helping feed people but educating youth about the importance of good food and nutrition.”
According to Public Health – Seattle and King County, 47% of Seattle adults and 22% of Seattle youth in grades 8, 10 and 12 were overweight or obese. At the same time, we know that promoting food production practices that do not rely on pesticides can help to decrease the negative impacts of pesticides for farm workers and eaters alike (Seattle Food Action Plan, 2012). It goes to show that connecting fresh, healthful foods with children and families in need is a viable and exciting market opportunity for small- and mid-sized local producers” says Lucy Norris, former Puget Sound Food Hub director and Farm to Table project manager. “There is ripe opportunity for Puget Sound Food Hub to continue working within our region to build a self-sustaining food system that mobilizes businesses and institutions, aids underserved communities and increases the profitability of farmers in Northwest Washington. Opportunities like Farm to Table can serve as an example for other communities within the region and other parts of the United States.”
The Farm to Table program was recognized with a national United States Conference of Mayor’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Award. In addition, NABC was able to secure $10,000 from the City of Seattle for the Puget Sound Food Hub to continue linking area farms with food access efforts in Seattle and King County into the future. Continuation planning is underway for 2016 and beyond.