For the seventh year in a row, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and the Washington State Nutrition Association (WSNA) will promote Taste Washington Day, partnering with farmers and schools to feature Washington-grown foods in school cafeteria meals.

Held on Oct. 4, Taste Washington Day is an opportunity to encourage the collaboration of school districts and their local agricultural community to provide healthy school meals throughout the school year.

So far, Montesano is among 37 school districts and 48 farms participating this year, and there’s still time for more to sign up. Some schools plan special events for Taste Washington Day, such as inviting a farmer to lunch or participating in the Washington Apple Crunch.

In proclaiming Oct. 4 as Taste Washington Day, Gov. Jay Inslee noted that farmers’ and ranchers’ capacity to provide a variety of nutritious fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as the partnerships among state agencies and the WSNA show a solid commitment to provide healthy meals to our state’s students.

“We’ve seen an increased emphasis on making sure all students can eat healthy foods at school,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “Our Farm to School program works diligently to link farmers and ranchers with their local schools, fostering partnerships that lead to great-tasting, healthy meals for our students.”

Many participating schools use Taste Washington Day as an opportunity to highlight special, seasonal menus and define what “farm to school” means to them.  At least 100 districts in Washington participate in some form of farm to school activity, such as buying foods from Washington farmers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates schools in our state spend more than $17 million a year on Washington-grown foods.

“It’s amazing so many districts across Washington have successfully incorporated locally sourced foods in their daily menus either directly from a farm, their school gardens, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, or working with their local distributor,” Vickie Ayers, president-elect of the WSNA said. “Let’s celebrate the event by inviting your parents to lunch as well as local public officials.”

Visit the WSDA Farm to School program’s Taste Washington Day web page for more information or contact Chris Iberle, WSDA Food Assistance and Regional Markets Program, at (206) 256-1874.