The mission of the Walla Walla Valley Farm to School is to inspire healthy communities through food, farm and garden experience.
A healthy community is not only physically and mentally well, but also cares for the environment and supports a strong local economy. We connect students with food in their school gardens and cafeterias and want kids to grow up choosing foods that are good for their bodies, the environment and the surrounding agricultural community.
What is Farm to School?
A robust nationwide F2S program can help correct two major societal problems: diet related health issues and the decline in independent farm businesses. Communities committed to building strong connections between schools and local agriculture will achieve multiple positive effects. When schools purchase locally grown foods, they provide equal access to high quality healthy foods, while helping build new markets for local producers. Engaging students in their school gardens advances connection with healthy foods as well as the natural environment, while enhancing academic achievement.
This national program involves 3 components and Walla Walla Valley Farm to School is active in all 3.
Supporting meaningful use and sustainability of School Gardens
Providing education about agriculture and food through farm field trips, Food Focus events, cooking experiences and Harvest of the Month tasting tables
Facilitating connections that result in schools purchasing locally grown foods to serve in cafeterias
Well before becoming an independent non-profit on Sept. 8 2015, Beth Thiel (WWVF2S Program Director) began work as a volunteer that eventually led to that point. In 2007 a core group of volunteers built a school garden at Sharpstein Elementary and immediately began working with school teachers to implement its use for students.
Over the ensuing years, this work blossomed to encompass many more aspects: supporting school gardens at five elementary and two middle schools; supporting classroom lessons as well as garden clubs at all gardens; taking students on farm field trips; implementing cafeteria fresh food tastings known as “Harvest of the Month”; recipe development and trainings for school nutrition services; holding cooking classes at both middle schools; building relationships with farmers to increase school district use of local foods and participating annually in Taste WA Day.
Much of this work was made possible through a two year USDA Farm to School grant awarded in 2012. At the conclusion of the grant’s funding period, a group of community volunteers formed Walla Walla Valley Farm to School (WWVF2S), which has subsequently gained non-profit status in order to sustain the myriad programs and activities begun. In August 2019 WWVF2S merged with the Sustainable Living Center as an initiative program. Primary work is now focused on: building sustainable school garden programs that maximize school garden use; promoting local food and farmers in the community; and advancing the dialogue about our local food system.