As of this January, Wayne County school cafeterias are serving more local food on their menus. On “Wayne Wednesdays,” students are now 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 will include potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, beans, and kale. Wayne County school districts are excited to be participating in this new, local program.
Wayne Wednesdays are the effort of a new coalition called GROW (Gathering Regional Offerings in Wayne) that includes Headwater Food Hub in Ontario, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Wayne County schools. Past projects among the GROW partners have included farm to school education and special menus items in October, which is National Farm to School month; but Wayne Wednesdays will maximize benefits to schools and local farmers by making local foods a regular part of the cafeteria menu.
According to Phil Bianchi, Director of Wholesale at Headwater Food Hub, Wayne Wednesdays will take advantage of the Hub’s infrastructure to keep farm-to-school cost-effective. He said, “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… 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.”
Each month for the rest of the school year, GROW will share information about each food and the farm it comes from. “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 CCE Executive Director Beth Claypoole.
January’s menu on the 31st featured a colorful “Potato Medley” from Williams Farm in Marion. The schools served 1,000 pounds of local potatoes, either roasted or mashed. Delicious!
Depending on the program’s success, more items may be served in the 2018-19 school year, which would mean more money in the pockets of area growers who need local buyers. Said Bianchi, “It's a win on so many fronts during an era when small and medium producers are struggling to connect to viable local markets. 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.”
For more information on Wayne Wednesdays, visit your school’s food service website or search for Wayne Wednesdays on Facebook.