Experiencing the Benefits of Farm to School Programs

Experiencing The Benefits Of Farm To School Programs

Mon 22 Oct 2012

Story by Hope Wilson

Re-posted with permission from the National Farm to School Month’s blog.

When I was growing up in West Virginia, my family kept a large garden and we canned and preserved food to eat year-round. I can still remember the fragrance of fresh tomatoes on the vine, and I thought digging for potatoes was like digging for gold.

So when I became a registered dietitian and worked, first with SNAP Education Programs, then with school gardens, and now with the National Farm to School Network, I was convinced that if children had a chance to see and care for their own food they’d be more likely to try new, healthy fruits and vegetables. And, in fact, as a growing body of research now indicates, they are. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch a child go from being scared of worms to excited about harvesting a bumper crop of zucchini!

Of course, school gardens aren’t the only way Farm to School initiatives are working to ensure every child has access to healthy, local food and the opportunity to learn how to eat healthfully and develop a connection to the source of their food.

Want to know more?

Get involved with the second annual celebration of National Farm to School Month in October! Whether you’re already part of a Farm to School program or are just getting started, Farm to School Month will be a great opportunity to build connections between schools, farms and communities while the spotlight is on our movement.

Here are some activities that others have found successful:

• Anticipating a bumper crop in your school garden? Invite your community to a harvest party in the garden and send everyone home with recipes and a bag of produce.
• Any PTO meetings scheduled during October? If so, invite parents to a tasting of dishes from your school menu featuring local foods.
• Are you a farmer who’s selling local food to a school? Why not offer to visit the classrooms? Many schools don’t have money for farm field trips, so bring in samples of your crops, stories, videos, and photos form your farm.
• Are you a teacher? Talk to your food service director about the local foods they’ll be serving during October and coordinate your classroom activities with the menu.
• Are you a parent? You can help teachers bring students to a Farmers Market to taste what’s on offer and talk to farmers about how to store and cook fresh, local foods.
• And whether you’re a school administrator, food service director, teacher or parent, I encourage you to take the National Farm to School Network “Farm to School Counts” pledge for a chance to win a cash prize for your program. To learn more, click here.

The National Farm to School Network’s website, www.farmtoschool.org, has many resources to help you with these activities and more during National Farm to School Month.

What activities have been successful for your Farm to School Program? Please share your ideas!

About the author: Hope Wilson is the program manager for the National Farm to School Network, which provides leadership, and support for the Farm to School movement.


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