As I weaved my way through the rows of lunch trays and chatting students, whispers of, “Look! A princess!” greeted me as the elementary school children spotted my tiara. But why would I be wearing a tiara in a school during lunch time? I’m so glad you asked!
Let me introduce myself: I’m Anna, the 2017-18 Washington State Dairy Ambassador. As the Ambassador, I travel around the state sharing stories about the dairy farm families of Washington and the health benefits of the delicious products they produce. While I enjoy all my travels, going to schools to talk with students is my one of my favorites.
So, what do you get when you combine excited students, a Dairy Ambassador and milk mustache stickers in a school cafeteria? A “dairy special” Harvest of the Month celebration!
What is Harvest of the Month?
School districts throughout Washington State feature a fresh food each month as part of the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Harvest of the Month program. The program encourages students to taste and appreciate the variety of delicious and healthy Washington foods available to them in their school meals. And during the month of February, Seattle Public Schools celebrated dairy for Harvest of the Month.
True or False: dairy is one of the most local foods in the cafeteria?
It’s true! Milk goes from the farm to your local schools in less than 48 hours.
Meeting a Dairy Farmer at School
During the month of February, I joined dairy farmers and fellow dairy ambassadors visiting students during lunch to help serve milk, answer dairy questions, and showcase milk from farms right here in Washington. As the Dairy Ambassador, I was thrilled to celebrate Harvest of the Month at nearly a dozen participating schools.
Here are my three favorite memories from the celebrations:
1. Meeting students
As I was talking to students, I was so excited to see how eager they were to tell me their favorite dairy food or show a dairy food they were eating in their lunch. As a dairy ambassador, I love interacting with kids and helping them connect eating and learning in a fun way.
"As a dairy ambassador, I love interacting with kids and helping them connect eating and learning in a fun way."
2. Helping students learn where milk comes from
Because dairy is so close to my heart, I love to share how dairy products go from farm to table. At one Harvest of the Month celebration, dairy farmer Michelle Schilter from Chehalis, Washington talked with the students about the “farm to table” story. Students were fascinated when she showed them the live video stream of cows on her farm. Dairy farmer Leann Krainick brought a milk machine from her farm and students were able to learn how cows are milked.
3. Making the connection between local foods and school meals
Fresh, local, nutritious foods (like dairy!) are an important part of every student’s school meal. As lunch was starting, I was given the opportunity to make a nutrition announcement explaining why milk and dairy products are both local and fresh. Many students had no idea that school milk comes fresh from Washington dairy farms to their school within 48 hours. Students also reviewed the importance of drinking milk to help strengthen bones, teeth and muscles.
During this Harvest of the Month celebration, I wanted students to understand that healthy eating is fun and tasty as well as leaving them with a positive mealtime memory. So whether it is Harvest of the Month or just a typical Wednesday, local, Washington milk is something to celebrate all year long.