School cafeterias in Wayne County recently started serving more local food on their menus.
On Wayne Wednesdays, students are able to try a healthy, local dish distributed from farms in the region through Headwater Food Hub. Schools are preparing their own recipes using these foods, which include potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, beans and kale.
Wayne Wednesdays were developed by Gathering Regional Offerings in Wayne, a coalition that includes Headwater Food Hub in Ontario, Cornell Cooperative Extension and Wayne County schools. Past projects among GROW partners include farm-to-school education and special menu items in October, which is National Farm to School Month.
The initiative will take advantage of the hub’s infrastructure to keep farm-to-school cost effective, according to Phil Bianchi, director of wholesale.
“Wayne Wednesdays are a fantastic example of a group effort to collaborate with food hubs that have created the supply chain logistics, food safety and customer service required,” he said. “Students receive the health benefits of local nutritious food, and food service directors are able to divert a portion of their spend to support the local economy and farming community.”
GROW will share information about each food and the farm it comes from each month for the rest of the school year.
“It is a great way to share and connect our local agriculture community with the schools, and to teach youth about our farms as a source of local food,” said Beth Claypoole, CCE executive director.
January’s menu featured a potato medley from Williams Farm in Marion. The schools served 1,000 pounds of local potatoes, either roasted or mashed.
More items may be served in the 2018-19 school year depending on the program’s success, which would mean more money in the pockets of area growers who need local buyers.
“It’s a win on so many fronts during an era when small and medium producers are struggling to connect to viable local markets,” Bianchi said. “Our hats are off to the Wayne County school food service directors who have created this program in an attempt to highlight local farmers and the wonderful food they produce year-round.”