CDC Awards "Health Champion" Recognition to Farm to Table

Organic produce from local farms is delivered to senior meal sites
and childcare centers.
Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Food Network.

This spring, the Farm to Table partnership completed a 21 month grant-funded project through Public Health-Seattle-King County's Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, which helps connect senior meal and child care programs with local farms to purchase fresh affordable produce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized the project as a Health Champion for their efforts to make healthy living easier and prevent chronic disease.

Access to affordable healthy food is a challenge for programs serving participants with limited incomes. Prior to participating in the project, senior congregate and home-delivered meal programs and childcare programs reported that their food budgets limited the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables they could purchase. Many programs relied on reheated institutional catered meals or frozen processed foods. In addition to cost, program administrators identified barriers such as limited storage capacity, staff training needs, and the lack of staff time for food preparation and menu planning.

Fresh produce that arrives in bulk gets sorted into family size portions.
Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Food Network.

Project partners, including the Puget Sound Food Network, City of Seattle Human Services Department, and the Washington Department of Agriculture's Farm to School Program (WSDA), met with participating meal programs to address concerns. Rather than a "one size fits all" approach, the project team worked with sites to develop sustainable purchasing and delivery models that met their unique needs.

Models included direct farm-to-meal site purchases; Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce box deliveries; and program-based "food hubs" or distribution sites. The Good Food Bag is a "food hub" model in which community groups purchase a variety of bulk produce that they redistribute in family size portions. Their community members purchase the bags at an affordable price.

Families pick up a Good Food Bag when picking up their children from the childcare center. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Food Network.

The project provided education and training for meal program providers to increase their nutrition knowledge and cooking skills. Cooks from Senior Services' congregate meal sites participated in a farm tour and training session at 21 Acres Farm in Woodinville, where they learned about the variety of local produce available during each season, and tips for storing and preparing fresh produce.

Farm to Table was successful in improving access to affordable local produce for some of King County's most vulnerable citizens, providing them with the opportunity to increase their fruit and vegetable intake and improve their health.

  • More than 50 sites incorporated farm fresh produce into meals—reaching 6,000 older adults and 600 children, and moving away from a reliance on catered or reheated processed foods.
  • Commercial sales to 12 local farms increased by $35,000.

In addition, various online tools are available, not only to senior and childcare centers, but to the public. The Washington Grown Toolkit, an online resource for recipes, sample menus and nutrition facts for local produce, includes a Seasonal Produce Chart with nutrient analysis information to help cooks identify what type of local produce is available throughout the year. A hands-on training video, developed by WSDA and Senior Services for pilot sites, can help other meal programs incorporate fresh local produce into their menus.

Two Project Move/Mapping Our Voices for Equality digital stories relate to Farm to Table:

Senior meal and childcare providers and participants alike appreciated the quality of produce and the relationships they built with farmers. Their experience strengthens their commitment to purchasing local produce whenever possible.

For more information about Farm to Table, visit Aging King County or contact Maria Langlais, Senior Meal Programs, Seattle Human Services Department/Aging and Disability Services (206-684-0651); Natalie Thomson, Seattle Human Services Department/Youth and Family Empowerment (206-684-0651); Karen Mauden, Puget Sound Food Network (425-466-8722); or Shoko Kumagai, WSDA Farm to Schools (206-256-1874).

—Maria Langlais, Aging and Disability Services

Training materials for senior meal program cooks include
fresh local beets and nasturtiums! Photo courtesy of
Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Renton Senior Center chef Cherilynn Williams demonstrates knife skills and
techniques. Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Agriculture.