Around Seattle and throughout this state and region, there is a brilliant movement underway toward getting our incredible local foods directly into school lunches. For the better health of our children, for its environmental wisdom in reducing many forms of waste, and for the strength of our economy, too it is an all around winning idea, often referred to simply as “Farm to School.”
Improving children’s nutrition and establishing better health habits are reason enough to support “Farm to School” initiatives. Obesity and many health problems rooted in poor childhood nutrition have had huge amounts of press here in the US. In various ways good childhood nutrition is a critical issue all over the world.
While we all know children must eat well to be well, at the same time we allow vast marketing campaigns to sell the most expensive and least healthy foods in advertising directed at children. Snack and fast food ads are constants in American kids’ television, but worse yet: in the US, these unhealthy, corporate foods are often sold in schools. We have raised awareness of our health problems and their roots, but clearly we need to do more to protect and provide for our children.
For one big step in the right direction, we need laws which require and fund better nutrition in schools. Here in Washington State, we have an immediate chance to do just that. On Wednesday, January 23rd, citizens who want kids to have healthier food in school will be lobbying for our own Farm to School law, led by the Washington Environmental Council and People For Puget Sound. I can’t take the day off to join them, so I am lobbying here and online to show my support.
I also created a recipe (see below) using ingredients which may soon be available in our schools — my Winter Roots Tart. Here in the Pacific Northwest region, also called Cascadia, our temperate climate and passionate farmers let local foods be enjoyed year round.
Bringing fresh, local food directly from farms to schools is clearly healthier for kids. It is also environmentally wise, reducing waste throughout the process. Fewer preservatives and additives are needed in foods, less energy is spent in transportation, and less cost disappears into corporate profits. The economics, too are better for both our hard working, family farmers and for our schools’ expenses — for our government’s and tax-payers’ bottom lines.
The world famous Pike Place Market in Seattle, now 100 years old, was founded on some of the same, solid economic sense — eliminating corporate profits between producers and consumers is a win on both ends of the deal. When I had committed to a month of eating local in a 100 mile diet, I tested much of the same philosophy. Even Tony Blair and Jamie Oliver have teamed up to get this ball rolling over in GB. Although the Farm to School program proposed in Washington State is breaking some ground in America and is in many ways an innovative concept, it is based on solid and well proven principles. Here is more background on the Seattle school system’s lunch economics.
In support of Farm to School laws here and everywhere, I offer my Winter Roots Tart. Right in the middle of January in Seattle, I found root vegetables from Nash’s Organic Produce and turned them into a delicious tart. I am proud to note that Nash’s is also one of the local producers who want to directly sell to school cafeterias!
1 roasted and sliced cylinder red beet
1 roasted and sliced orange beet
2 roasted and sliced yellow carrots
2 big boiled and mashed potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
some Herbes de Provence
2 cloves of garlic
1 olive oil and garlic tart crust using my previous recipe, or a plain pastry sheet
a few crumbles of local Tipsy Cow Cheese from River Valley Ranch (note it is made with microbial rennet, that the word microbial implies it is vegetarian rennet, and that it also includes local red wine – yum!) You can skip the cheese completely and still have a delicious vegan version as the crust is vegan!
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
2. Saute the boiled mashed potatoes in garlic and olive oil, with a pinch of Herbes de Provence and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roll your tart crust and bake in the oven for 10-15 min, or until golden brown.
4. Layer a nice thick layer of potatoes in the tart.
5. Crumble some cheese over top and bake for 2 minutes, until the cheese melts into a thin layer.
6. Peel and slice the roasted beets and carrots. I roasted them in foil at 350 F (175 C) for about an hour (less for the carrots), or until you can easily poke a fork through.
7. Layer the beet and carrot slices as you like on the surface of the tart. Be generous and be artistic :) The beets will shrink revealing the potatoes, so put plenty.
8. Drizzle some olive oil on the top, and sprinkle a pinch or two of the Herbes de Provence.
We don’t even have kids of our own — yet! One day we will, and they won’t be leaving home without their lunch boxes if we don’t change what is available to them at school or outside home in general. When I was growing up in India, there was hardly any junk food available. In school we were served a freshly made, balanced, and vegetarian meal every day for lunch which we were expected to eat. Typically this meant daal, roti, rice, vegetables, lentils, yogurt, and some days a sweet!
It is sad to live in the world’s richest country and be a slave to corporate gimmicks like we see in kids’ school foods. Meanwhile, small farms in this country work extremely hard to produce and sell the best of what they grow. Why eat the stuff that was over-sprayed, treated with all kinds of unhealthy if edible chemicals, and otherwise over processed, over packaged, and over priced? We do not need to give up all indulgences and we do need some convenience, but we need to get the bulk of our nutrition from better sources. More people need to make healthier choices for themselves, and demand the same for their kids. A slice: to local producers and healthier kids!