February 21, 2014

Farm Beat: Event offers twist on eat-your-veggies campaign

A March 6 fundraiser for farm-to-school programs will include a demonstration of how to prepare little-used fruits and vegetables.

A March 6 event will raise money for farm-to-school efforts while teaching people about our more obscure fruits and vegetables.

The gathering at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center will feature a light dinner, wine and beer tasting, produce samples, a farmers market and more. Tickets are $50.

Culinary students from Manteca Unified School District will demonstrate how to cook some of the lesser-used crops of late winter. Think beets, kale, daikon radishes and the like.

“No one buys them because they don’t know how to prepare them,” said Terri Spezzano, county director and nutrition adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Or as a poster for the event puts it: “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Farm-to-school programs aim to get local and regional farmers to supply much of the food served in cafeterias. The definitions of “local” and “regional” vary among programs, but they have the common goals of getting kids to eat well while helping farmers make a living.

Event organizers also hope to get the general public interested in these food sources. This can include community-supported agriculture, where farmers deliver over a season to customers who subscribe in advance.

Space at the fundraiser is limited, so interested people should reserve a spot soon.

On a related note, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched the latest round of applications for its Farm-to-School Grant Program. It provides $5 million a year for schools and other entities looking to launch or expand these efforts.

In November, Modesto City Schools got a $90,751 grant to increase the amount of locally and regionally produced food in its cafeterias. The district defines “local” as Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties. “Regional” means the Central and Salinas valleys.

The grant program is open to schools, nonprofit groups, state and local agencies and agricultural producers. They have until April 30 to apply for the current round. More information is at

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