(Photo courtesy of National Farm to School Network)
In 2010, Congress designated October as National Farm to School Month celebrate those who practice growing their own food and honor the farmers who provide food, fiber, and fuel to the rest of us. The Farm to School Programs play a crucial role not only in helping children understand where their food comes from, but also as a means to improve child nutrition. Implementing this program is a great opportunity for us to educate children on where their food comes from while also helping to stimulate local economies.
What is Farm to School?
Farm to School or Farm to Child Care programs enrich the connection that communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.
This initiative gives students access to healthy and local foods at meal times as well as providing innovative educational opportunities through techniques found in flourishing school gardens, creative cooking lessons and by experiencing farm field trips. Local farmers increase their ability to stay on the land through expanded distribution outlets and by building hands-on relationships with the communities that they serve.
What’s happening in Arizona?
Arizona has a lot to celebrate! Since 2011, the Arizona Department of Education, Health and Nutrition Services Division (HNS) has worked to connect school food buyers with Arizona producers by offering regional farm tours, regional buyer-supplier meetings and training to schools on topics such as local procurement, food safety, and basics in school gardening. The latest USDA Farm to School Census reported that 31% of Arizona public schools engage in some kind of farm to school activity. Related activities may include: building a school garden, visiting a farm, serving locally produced food in school meals, taste education with local foods, inviting a farmer to school, writing to a farmer, rancher or dairyman or learning about Arizona agriculture through classroom activities.
How can YOU celebrate National Farm to School Month?
HNS encourages parents, teachers, food service professionals, administrators, and community leaders to be positive role models for our students. Here are suggestions on how you can celebrate National Farm to School Month:
1. Remind teachers and nutrition educators to invest in Arizona Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom resources this October to help engage students in learning more about where their food comes from. Teachers should pay special attention to their Aggie Pen Pal Program, and can click here to register now.
2. Learn about how to start a school garden, garden food safety and find peer written lessons to help teachers incorporate agriculture into their classrooms with the Agricultural Literacy Programfrom the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County. Look for the Locally Grown lesson located on their home page.
3. Coordinate taste testing with something locally produced in your area for a classroom or after school program. Check out the Arizona Grown website for more information about Arizona’s seasonality, farmers’ markets, U-pick farms and nurseries near you.
4. Visit your local farmers’ market. Buy something you’ve never tried before, cook it and share with your family and friends. For information about where the nearest market is and other locally owned and operated businesses, go here. Or, go to Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fill Your Plate and select their Farmers’ Market listing, containing one of the most comprehensive lists of the state’s farmers markets that’s searchable by city and county.
5. Win $1,000 for your community! Anyone who fills out a “Share Form” on the National Farm to School website during the month of October will be entered to win a drawing for $1,000 to spend on a farm to school project in their community! For more information contact Cindy Gentry, Arizona State Lead for the National Farm to School Network at email@example.com.