Del. tour important part of WISHH training

Managing Editor

HARRINGTON, Del. (Oct. 18, 2016) — After a week of presentations and training on improving their respective country’s school nutrition programs late last month, an international group participating in a World Initiative for Soy in Human Health program was eager to get outside to visit places that put aspects from their training into practice.
That wish was granted with a day-long tour in Delaware, visiting a farm and school district with a robust nutrition program.
Funded by the American Soybean Association and the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, WISHH workshop trainees leave the program with technical assistance and a fully developed action plan to integrate soyfoods to improve nutritional value of food and nutritional impact, according to Karen Edwards, who helps to facilitate the workshop.
According to ASA, USDA and other economic analysis indicate developing countries dominate world demand growth for agricultural products. USDA projects developing countries’ demand for agricultural products will increase faster than their production.
As a result, these countries will account for 92 percent of the total increase in world oilseed and meat imports in 2013-22. That makes WISHH’s efforts a win for U.S. soybean growers expanding markets, Edwards said, and a win for these countries to improve protein consumption and nutritional health.
Edwards said the workshops had often been held in the Midwest and with this one on the east coast, WISHH officials worked with ASA President and Delaware farmer Richard Wilkins, Delaware Cooperative Extension and other state groups to organize a trip.
“We definitely wanted to get on the ground and on a farm,” Edwards said. “The group loved coming to Delaware. If anything, we should have spent more time there,”
Wilkins suggested starting at David Marvel’s farm near Harrington as Marvel, a soybean grower, has also been involved with farm-to-school efforts on the state and national level.
“What they were most interested in was the amount of attention that we give in our country to developing program’s for children’s lunches and the opportunities to improve their growth and nutrition,” Wilkins said.
Marvel said two things stuck with him from the visit. First, the different perspectives on poverty from people in emerging nations versus common ideas in the United States, and second, a discussion on how to measure success in improving nutrition across a population.
Gathering data and measuring success by the numbers was one perspective while another was looking at the ability of people learning first and then becoming the teachers, sustaining the effort on their own.
From Marvel’s farm the group visited William Penn High School in Wilmington and its Penn Farm. William Penn uses four acres of the 117-acre historic Penn Farm to have its agriculture students grow kale, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, and pumpkins that go directly to the student cooks in the culinary program. Some of that produce also goes to the cafeteria and a subscription sales program, that the students run themselves.
“Having a school garden is very much a world concept so getting to look at the Penn Farm was very interesting to them,” Edwards said.
The group also visited with Dr. Michelle Rodgers, University of Delaware’s director of cooperative extension and outreach to learn more about the Extension model for educating citizens. 
Edwards said at the end of the week-long workshop, participants ranked the trip to Delaware as one of the most valuable parts of the workshop and many indicated they would have stayed another week if possible.
“They were wishing for more,” Edwards said. “Hats off to these folks in Delaware. They played a great part in that evaluation.”