Coupeville School District has received an $82,345 grant to grow its Connected Food Program.
The grant from the state department of education is being used to upgrade and purchase equipment that will allow the district to meet the demand of the food program.
A total of $49,145 was allocated for the cafeteria and kitchen with the remaining $33,200 going towards the school farm site.
The Connected Food Program is in its first year and provides about 90 percent of the meals for students and prepares about 500 meals a day, feeding about half of the CSD student population, according to Connected Food Program Director Andreas Wurzrainer.
The current kitchen in Coupeville High School was set up for heat-and-serve food, and is not ideal for the scratch cooking that takes place in the Connected Food Program, Wurzrainer said.
The kitchen does not have enough space to store fruits and vegetables, which inhibits implementing one of the program’s main priorities.
“One of our emphases from the beginning was to showcase not just fruit, because fruit is easy, but vegetables,” Wurzrainer said. “We’ve worked hard to increase the quality of our salad bar significantly so kids don’t just put a carrot on their plate because they have to.”
The new walk-in cooler purchased with the grant will allow for more storage once it is installed in the summer. The rest of the kitchen equipment is expected to arrive next month and includes a mixer, steam kettle, blender, food processor and potato peeler.
Part of the grant will go towards improving the school farm site, which is being developed in partnership with non-profit Coupeville Farm-to-School.
“Our next job is to connect more tightly to Coupeville Farm-to-School and this grant is doing a lot towards that,” Wurzrainer said.
The school farm site will receive fencing to keep deer out, a covered harvest station for school-grown fruits and vegetables, and solar panels for the to-be-set-up greenhouse.
Some fruits and vegetables from the farm site will increase local produce in the cafeteria but the main goal of the site is to increase agriculture education, Connected Food Program Assistant Director Laura Luginbill said.
“It is important for our kids to know what is grown here and the history of the agriculture in Coupeville,” Luginbill said
Wurzrainer and Luginbill appreciate the community participation in the Connected Food Program and on Feb. 27 the kitchen will host another community dinner. The kitchen will serve a Bell’s Farm shepherd’s pie, spinach salad, chocolate mousse with Mutiny Bay blueberry compote.
Both of the directors want to reach a point where students no longer remember heat-and-serve food.