With the hard work of WSU Clallam County Extension SNAP-Ed staff, a local Farm to School Consultant, and School District leadership, The PASD was awarded a $109,000 Healthy Meals Incentives grant to make lasting, student-led change to school nutrition between September 2023 and September 2025. The Healthy Meals Incentives Grant is made possible through a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and Action for Healthy Kids. The purpose of the grant is to help rural and high-need school districts make changes to school meals to better align with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
WSU Extension Community Health Program Coordinator Danielle Carson and Farm to School Consultant Stacey Larsen are working closely with the PASD on this project, which is dubbed the “Port Angeles School District Good Food Movement.” Stacey is the former Port Townsend School District Food Service Director and has nearly a decade of experience in transitioning school districts from processed, heat-and-serve meals to locally sourced, scratch-cooked meals. She will work with students and food service staff to develop breakfast and lunch menu items that have less sugar and sodium, more whole grains and fresh produce and feature more choices for students with dietary or cultural food preferences.
We approach this project fully aware of the many challenges that school meal programs face. The School District meal service department is short-staffed, and meeting students’ standards as well as USDA Nutrition standards can seem like an impossible task. To ensure that the menu changes make students want to stick around for school meals, PAHS students, teachers and community members will have the opportunity to fill out a survey to describe what they like and don’t like about current meal service, and what they want to see in school meals.
Using their feedback, Stacey, Sodexo Food Service Director Stephanie Bry and student groups will be developing recipes with fresh and local ingredients that can be sourced through grant funding as well as existing food service contracts. The new recipes for protein breakfasts, healthy entrees and unique salad bar offerings will be sampled to students at as many PASD schools as possible during lunch time during the 2023-2024 school year. A regular sampling schedule will begin October 2023 in observance of Taste Washington Month. The first taste testing event will be on Friday, September 29 at the Port Angeles High School Freshman Lunch. Students will get to taste a salad made with local produce from Chi’s Farm and locally grown apples.
The Healthy Meals Incentives grant will also help with purchasing new equipment for 3 school kitchens, paying staff for supplemental training in scratch cooking, and introducing new menu items. By the end of the 2024-2025 school year, the project team anticipates that school menus will feature more healthy choices and will draw more students to the cafeteria, and school food service staff will be equipped with scratch cooking and local sourcing knowledge that keeps meals healthy while keeping costs low.
About WSU Clallam Extension’s Farm to School Program
Clallam County has the 4th highest childhood food insecurity rate in Washington State, and universal school meals help alleviate childhood hunger. WSU Clallam Extension and our community partners are committed to ensuring that students aren’t only being fed, but are being fed well.
WSU Clallam Extension’s Community Health program manager Danielle Carson launched a Farm to School program in Spring of 2023, which is geared towards helping schools source fresher and local foods, fostering opportunities for place-based education, and providing hands-on garden education for K-12 students during and after school.
Data shows that youth need to have 10 positive experiences with a new food to incorporate it into their diets. For this reason, improvements to PASD school meals are accompanied by garden-based education provided by WSU Clallam County Extension’s full-time school garden educator, Amelia Depue. Students learn science, English and math through gardening while having the opportunity to taste fresh foods that they’ve had a hand in growing. Students have also had the opportunity to visit local farms such as Wild Edge Farm and SisterLand Farms so they can experience their local food system in action.
To learn more about WSU Clallam Extension’s Farm to School program, visit https://extension.wsu.edu/clallam/farm-to-school/.
If you are a PASD student, teacher, district family member, community member or public official interested in sharing your experiences and thoughts about school meals, submit input and feedback here.