Is this local? Where does this come from? These are questions many people are asking about their food – and this includes schools. Nutrition and sustainability are two topics that a growing number of schools are making a priority. They are connecting with community farmers and learning about and sourcing local foods or even growing their own. As a result, students are more interested in nutrition, they are choosing to eat more healthfully, and are more involved in their communities.
The USDA reports that there are 42,000 schools with farm-to-school programs operating in conjunction with the National School Lunch Program and other school meal programs. These schools have purchased nearly $600 million worth of food locally in the 2013-2014 school year – a 55 percent increase over the 2011-2012 school year.
The preliminary Farm to School Census data from the 2013-2014 school year states that 75 percent of schools with farm-to-school programs reported seeing at least one of the following positive benefits — a reduction in plate waste, higher acceptance of healthier meals, increased participation in school meal programs, lower school meal program costs or more support from parents and community members.
The growing Farm to School movement is clearly impacting not only schools, but entire communities. Since Farm to School Month is this October, we are providing some tips from farmtoschool.org on ways to become more involved.
Organizations and businesses
- Show your support for Farm to School Month by becoming an official sponsor! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Become an official Farm to School Month partner! Partners commit to spreading the word about Farm to School Month. Suggested messaging and weekly updates will be provided by NFSN. Contact: email@example.com
- Plan nutrition education activities, such as Harvest of the Month, featuring a local food product that is in season.
- Connect instructional school gardens and garden-based learning activities to the curriculum.
- Organize farm tours or trips to the local farmers’ market.
- Send information about Farm to School Month to parents.
School food service professionals
- Promote Farm to School Month on the school menu and in the cafeteria. Find logos, posters and more at farmtoschool.org
- Do a taste test of local products or feature one item for lunch, breakfast or snacks.
- Create a farm to school salad bar using local products.
- Visit your local farmers’ market. Buy something you’ve never tried before, cook it and share with your family and friends.
- Cook with seasonal products as much as possible. Most State Departments of Agriculture or Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters can provide you with a regional crop calendar.
- Volunteer at your local school to support a school garden or classroom educational activity.
Also search Field Trip Factory’s programs for a trip to a local grocery store. Many of the field trips touch upon the benefits of local foods and describe how the stores are working with community farmers to offer nutritious, sustainable products.