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Above: Kelseyville High School sophomore Danielle Mosqueda enjoys working as a teachers’ aide in the school kitchen washing and processing local and other specialty crops for lunch.

Lake County Farm to School Project Launched

Monday, February 9, 2015

As part of the ongoing effort to encourage the purchase of locally-grown produce by schools in Lake County for student lunches, snacks, and breakfasts, North Coast Opportunities, Inc. is pleased to announce that it was recently awarded a $397,899 grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to serve five Lake County school districts.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant was awarded to North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO) by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). NCO will work with five Lake County school districts to address barriers to the utilization of specialty crops in school meals. Specialty crops – as opposed to commodity crops – include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and dried fruits.

“With this grant, we have the opportunity to increase the amount of fresh, in season, locally grown specialty crops served daily to 6,000 Lake County students,” said Terre Logsdon, Lake County Farm to School Project Coordinator.  “Additionally, this grant will give local specialty crop farmers the opportunity to expand production to meet the needs of the school – a win-win for our health and local economy.”

The Lake County Farm to School Project will assess school needs, upgrade kitchen equipment, and help adapt kitchen space in Kelseyville Unified School District, Konocti Unified School District, Lakeport Unified School District, Middletown Unified School District, and Upper Lake Union Elementary School District.

Having the proper kitchen equipment – and knowing how to efficiently use it to process local produce – is a large part of this CDFA grant. Food service staff in the participating districts will receive specialized equipment based on their needs assessment. They will also receive training on equipment use and local specialty crop procurement, preparation, and processing.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in summer programming that will teach them how to process and preserve local specialty crops for use in school kitchens throughout the school year, thereby extending the use of local produce in school meals.

The Lake County Farm to School project will also work with local farmers to help them understand the needs of area schools, provide technical assistance to meet school purchasing requirements, and link farmers and food service directors to help create production schedules based on school needs.

The project is modeled after NCO’s successful Mendocino County Farm to School project. Anticipated outcomes include increased capacity to incorporate local specialty crops into school meals, increased school purchasing of local specialty crops, increased utilization of specialty crops in school meals, increased consumption of fresh specialty crops and improved nutrition for 6,000 students, and increased farm income generated through sales to local schools and businesses.

Over the past decade, NCO has leveraged relationships with numerous community partners to revitalize the local food system by supporting food production, distribution and infrastructure, marketing and promotion, and nutrition education. As a result, local production is increasing, as is community demand for and access to healthy local foods. “We’re excited to add this project to our local food system efforts,” says NCO Executive Director Patty Bruder. “It aligns with our mission at NCO to empower people through community action, it will help support Lake County on the Way to Wellville, and it’s wonderful to be able to work directly with a younger generation.”