A Taste of Farm-to-School

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson 

I got curious last week about how prevalent farm-to-school programs are, and how well they’re being covered in the news media. So I set up a search on the term. I’m blown away by how many programs there are, and the innovative approaches I see in evidence. Below is just a taste of the articles I found published over three days, October 2-4.

But first, a few words about the National Farm to School Network, instigators of the program.

Our Vision: The National Farm to School Network envisions a nation in which Farm to School programs are an essential component of strong and just local and regional food systems, ensuring the health of all school children, farms, environment, economy and communities.

What is Farm to School?

Farm to School is broadly defined as a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Since each Farm to School program is shaped by its unique community and region, the National Farm to School Network does not prescribe or impose a list of practices or products for the Farm to School approach.

Farm to School at its core is about establishing relationships between local foods and school children by way of including, but not limited to:

  • Local products in school meals –breakfast, lunch, afterschool snacks; and in classrooms – snacks, taste tests, educational tools
  • Local foods related curriculum development and experiential learning opportunities through school gardens, farm tours, farmer in the classroom sessions, chefs in the classroom, culinary education, educational sessions for parents and community members, visits to farmers’ markets.

The National Farm to School Network aims to enable every child to have access to nutritious food while simultaneously benefiting communities and local farmers.

Some Numbers From the F2S Web Site

  • States with operational programs: 46
  • Number of schools involved: 9,714
  • Number of school districts involved: 2,136

Click here to find a Farm to School program near you.

California: Kids Eat Better After Learning about Food

A three year UC Berkeley study shows that students fed a steady curriculum of gardening, cooking and nutrition have significantly better eating habits than children who don’t get the same instruction.

The report, scheduled to be released this week by the university’s Dr. Roberts C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, is one of the first to look at how an integrated approach to food education at the elementary school level can contribute to children’s health and welfare. The center’s findings could prove timely as Congress prepares to vote, possibly as early as this week, on child nutrition legislation.

Virginia: County schools buying local produce

Franklin County schools have joined other Virginia schools that are buying fresh food from local farmers.

“The interest level has been high with the start of the school year, and we expect an even higher participation rate this year,” said Leanne DuBois, farm-to-school coordinator for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Virginia Farm-to-School Group is hoping that more schools will serve locally-grown foods to their students during Virginia Farm-to-School Week, Nov. 8-12.

[….]
“We’re hoping that the weeklong celebration will lead to a longterm relationship between school cafeterias and Virginia farmers,” she added.

British Columbia and Elsewhere in Canada

[…] Family get hooked on junk food bу eating frozen dinners and take-out meals аt home, says Paul Finkelstein, a cooking arts teacher аt Stratford Northwestern Lesser School in Ontario. a startling number of kids hаνе cash in their pockets to spend on chips and chocolate bars, hе points out. “I blame thе parents.”

[….]

A growing number of teacher-rυn cafeterias аrе getting creative. some school districts hаνе a local Jamie Oliver, thе star chef who drove junk food out of British schools. Teens аrе culture to cook from scratch in more than a dozen high-school instruction cafeterias in British Columbia, and Farm to School programs inspired bу thе locavore passage аrе taking root асrοѕѕ Canada.

Aѕ cafeterias get better аt rising appealing recipes that comply with local values, students’ palettes will adapt to eating less salt, sugar and ѕtουt, dietitians say.

Virginia: County schools buying local produce

Franklin County schools have joined other Virginia schools that are buying fresh food from local farmers.

“The interest level has been high with the start of the school year, and we expect an even higher participation rate this year,” said Leanne DuBois, farm-to-school coordinator for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Virginia Farm-to-School Group is hoping that more schools will serve locally-grown foods to their students during Virginia Farm-to-School Week, Nov. 8-12.

[….]
“We’re hoping that the weeklong celebration will lead to a longterm relationship between school cafeterias and Virginia farmers,” she added.

New York: New “Farm to School” program builds both food and learning pyramids

Haldane students are in for a treat next week when their Thursday (Sept. 30) lunch selection includes a truly fresh-from-the-fields “Farmer’s Choice” vegetable course of roasted butternut squash with maple syrup puree, prepared from a recipe by a local professional chef.  This savory and nutritious addition to the usual school lunch menu is the first of what will be a year-long, once a month initiative to take advantage of the bountiful produce of the Hudson Valley. The program will not only serve farm-fresh food to the students, but will complement it with side courses of classroom nutrition education, recipe collecting, visits from farmers, and, most importantly, planting, cultivating and harvesting in Haldane’s new children’s garden. By this time next year, the monthly selection may well be something that the students have grown themselves.
This new program is specific to Haldane, but it is part of a national network called “Farm to School,” which, according to their literature, “enables every child to have access to nutritious food while simultaneously benefiting communities and local farmers.”

Pennsylvania: Better school lunches

Congress soon will vote on child nutrition legislation that could significantly improve school lunches. As a dietitian, I am extremely concerned because I heard that the House version of the new Child Nutrition Act may be rejected for a much weaker, stripped-down Senate version.

Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill — the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, H.R. 5504 — gives schools the resources necessary to provide all children with healthy options. It includes an innovative pilot program to introduce more plant-based foods and provides more funding for farm-to-school programs. It extends nutrition standards to all food sold in schools and provides vital funding for nutrition education.

The House bill also goes much further toward providing low-income children with access to nutritious meals for breakfast, after school, on weekends and during the summer.

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