By Jean Ragalie, R.D.
President National Dairy Council
Through my travel experiences, I have witnessed a disconnect among people and the food on their plates – many don’t know how their food originated, which is why farm to school initiatives are vital to nutrition education.
Recently, I have traveled to Washington, D.C. and Denver, Co. to a national and local forum, respectively, on the “Future of Food.” Leaders in agriculture, education, and government discussed ideas about how we can join together under a shared responsibility to find solutions to help feed a growing population nutritious food.
At the Denver forum on June 28th, the significance of farm to school food programs was highlighted with reference to school breakfast and lunch as well as children’s health education. We have a shared responsibility to provide nutritious food to our children in schools and to the growing population.
The conversation focused on the nutritional importance of food and its role in schools, particularly at breakfast, so children are nourished to start the day of learning. One of the main issues highlighted by panelists was the challenge of bringing nutritious, affordable, farm-fresh foods to schools. Programs like Know Your Farmer Know Your Food and National Farm to School Network through USDA’s Farm to School Initiative are examples of initiatives that are working in schools. They help accomplish the following:
- Know Your Famer Know Your Food – is a USDA-wide effort to strengthen local and regional food systems.
- National Farm to School Network – 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.
- USDA’s Farm to School Initiative – An effort to connect schools (K-12) with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally grown produced foods.
“If children understand where their food comes from, they are more likely to eat it,” according to Dayle Hayes president, Nutrition for the Future, Inc. “After all, it isn’t nutrition unless the children are eating the food.” School curriculum should include nutrition and agriculture education as well as the opportunity to visit a farm. This can be a fun and educational way for kids to see firsthand where their food begins.
National Dairy Council was founded by dairy farmers almost a century ago and remains committed to helping ensure children have the best chance at leading healthy, productive lives. Help us out and support your local farmers by getting your child’s school involved in a farm to school initiative and visit the National Farm to School Network to find a program near you!
The next local Future of Food event is on Monday, July 16 in Litchfield Park, AZ. For those on Twitter follow/use the hashtag #ThinkFood and join the conversation. I will be sharing more about the Arizona event soon!