When the air gets crisper and the apples sweeter, those at the USDA Farm to School Program know a celebration is in order. Not because it’s fall, but because it’s National Farm to School Month! Every October, we spend the month reflecting on how farm to school programs work for kids, farmers and communities.
If you’ve never heard of farm to school programs before, they are about serving food grown by local farmers through the school meal programs (like the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs) and teaching students about where their food comes from. For students, farm to school activities include eating delicious local meals in the cafeteria; growing, tasting and learning about food in the school garden; visiting local farms; participating in hands-on cooking lessons; and engaging in lessons about nutrition and agriculture in the classroom. As Fuel Up to Play 60’s (FUTP60) Farm to School play shows, many FUTP60 schools and Student Ambassadors are already engaged.
Students often play a key role in spearheading farm to school efforts. If you are interested in helping to start a program in your school or district we’ve got some tips for where to start:
- Connect with food service staff, and your local dairy community! Did you know that milk is the No. 1 product that schools source from local farmers? Because milk is so perishable, not to mention too heavy to transport long distances, it goes to local dairy companies to ensure food safety and nutritional quality and then is packaged and sent to local stores (generally within about 48 hours or less). This means that your school might already be connected to a local farm willing to host a field trip or a farmer may be able to visit students in the classroom. Talk to your school’s cafeteria manager to learn more about where your milk comes from.
- Scout out your campus for some fertile ground. If your school doesn’t already have a school garden, scope out the grounds for a sun-soaked patch of earth that’s not in use. If your school needs funds to start a garden, ask for help from local businesses, or check out grant programs from companies like Whole Foods, Annie’s and Jamba Juice.
- As FUTP60 says, huddle up! Aren’t sure where to start? How about initiating a meeting with interested students, teachers, administrators, food service staff, farmers and community members? Even schools or districts that don’t have formal “farm to school” programs often already participate in farm to school activities. It may just be a matter of getting people together in one room to determine what’s already being done, generate new ideas and plan a farm to school “play.”
As National Farm to School Month wraps up, we invite all FUTP60 members to share their farm to school hopes, dreams and accomplishments! Tag @USDANutrition on Twitter and use the hashtag #farmtoschool.
To learn more about farm to school and check out USDA’s resources, visit us here.