The number of farm-to-school programs in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. At last count, the USDA reported over 3,800 school districts participating, with programs in every state across the country. The primary focus of most farm-to-school programs is to utilize locally produced food in school meals and snacks. However, many farm-to-school programs go beyond the cafeteria to incorporate nutrition and farming related activities. Classroom education programs, farm field trips, local food taste testing, and gardening activities are just a few of the many potential components of farm-to-school programs.
With so many benefits, it is no wonder that schools across the nation are jumping on board with farm-to-school programs.
Would you like to see a farm-to-school program in your child’s school? Here are some tips for getting the ball rolling in your community:
Every successful farm-to-school program needs a leader to help drive the cause. These champions work diligently to educate school and community leaders about the benefits of farm-to-school programs and rally support for the movement.
Farm-to-school programs require cooperation and involvement at many levels. Administrators, school food service managers, farmers, and local food advocates are just a few of the many individuals you could connect with to promote a farm-to-school program. Schedule meetings to introduce your ideas and get feedback. You can expect to meet resistance from some, but continue to seek out allies at every opportunity.
The National Farm-to-School Network (www.farmtoschool.org) is a great source for information on farm-to-school programs across the country. Take a look at their website to find resources specific to your area and contact information for the farm-to-school coordinator in your state.
Small steps, if done successfully, can increase support and involvement. Work with the school food service to source one snack per week from a local orchard, or build a small raised-bed garden with your child’s class. Once teachers and administrators see the positive student response, they will be more likely to support a larger program.
Though establishing a farm-to-school program can be a long and involved process, the benefits to students and communities make the programs well worth the effort. Continue to seek out support from school and community members, and before you know it, you will have an army of farm-to-school advocates working to promote healthier lunches, kids, and communities.
1. Name one way children benefit from farm-to-school programs:
2. Besides utilizing local food in the cafeteria, what other components might a farm-to-school program include?
3. How many people should be involved in starting a farm-to-school program?
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