Concord grapes ripen on a vine in Okanogan.

OLYMPIA – Several Okanogan County businesses and at least one school district will mark Taste Washington Day on or near Oct. 2.

For the ninth year in a row, the event celebrates and encourages partnerships between farmers and schools to feature Washington-grown foods in cafeteria meals.

Methow Valley School District will mark the day on Oct. 3.

Taste Washington Day is a project of the state Department of Agriculture, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington State Nutrition Association.

Taste Washington Day encourages the collaboration of school districts, school gardeners, educators and the local agricultural community to provide healthy school meals throughout the school year.

As of late last week, 24 school districts and childcare centers, and more than 50 farms had signed up to participate.

Among the local businesses participating are Bluebird Grain Farms, Winthrop; Foresee Ranch, Republic; Okanogan Producers Marketing Association, Omak, and River Valley Organics, Tonasket.

Some schools plan special events for Taste Washington Day, such as inviting a farmer to lunch or participating in the Washington Apple Crunch. Many students also visit school gardens and learn about nutrition and agriculture through cafeteria and classroom activities.

At least 100 districts in Washington participate in some form of farm-to-school activities during the school year, such as buying foods from Washington farmers or doing agricultural education.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates schools in Washington spend more than $17 million a year on Washington-grown foods.

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