Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.
Throughout the Southeast, school districts are coming up with innovative ways to promote farm to school efforts. Farm to school programs engage students, teachers, and communities on the importance of healthier eating habits, local food systems, and provide nutritional education that stimulates the mind and has a lasting effect. Increasing awareness about Farm to School efforts is no longer on the back burner for school nutrition professionals. In Florida, there are several school districts who have taken on the challenge to increase farm to school efforts using some unique approaches. In Sarasota County Schools, the Nutrition Department is committed to purchasing at least 50 percent of their produce from local farmers. The School Board of Alachua County has established 29 school gardens used as outdoor learning labs providing students hands-on nutritional education. This year during farm to school month, it is no surprise that Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services is promoting student health and wellness using the theme “Feeding the Future.”
By Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla.
“Feeding the Future” is the theme of Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services, and it certainly applies to their farm to school program. Read more »
The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country. We thank them for sharing their stories!
“My carrot is burnt!” exclaimed a Willow Cove Elementary student in February, when they harvested carrots from the school garden for the first time. The student had never seen a purple carrot before and that day, the whole class enjoyed sample tastes of orange, white, and purple carrots. Carrots are just one of the many crops students have harvested from the Willow Cove garden, and they have a motivated teacher and their Nutrition Services department to thank for the experience.
At the start of last school year, Willow Cove Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher called the District’s Director of Nutrition Services, Matthew Belasco, to ask for a few milk crates to start a small window garden. Matthew, eager to get a school garden up and running, took this spark of interest and ran with it. Within a few hours, he arrived at Willow Cove with a wheel barrow, soil, shovels, and seeds, convinced the teacher that raised beds were preferable, and got to work planting the first school garden within Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD), just outside Willow Cove’s kindergarten classroom. Willow Cove’s success with maintaining the garden and engaging students with outdoor lessons created the momentum and excitement needed to begin expanding Pittsburg’s farm to school program. Read more »
Celebratory events in recognition of National Farm to School Month are taking place across the country, and in many forms! Here in the Northeast, the Maine Department of Education chose to develop and execute their first ever Maine Harvest Lunch Week Menu Contest.
Schools were invited to submit a menu from a meal that was served to students during the designated Maine Harvest Lunch Week in late September. The theme this year was “Dig In to Local School Meals,” and participating schools and districts did just that! Schools incorporated local items across the lunch tray in creative and appetizing ways. The menu and photos of students’ trays were submitted to the department to be considered in the contest. Stephanie Stambach coordinated the effort and said that she saw it as one way “to promote the use of local foods in our schools… and to recognize schools for the work they are currently doing with Farm to School.” Read more »
Last week, USDA celebrated National School Lunch Week from October 12 -18 with exciting local events across the country. It was a chance for USDA staff to meet with students and hear what they think of the newer, fresher options in the lunch room. It was also an opportunity for USDA officials to say “thank you” to the hardworking school food service professionals who make healthy school lunches possible.
Healthy meals at school are an essential part of every child’s health, development, and academic success. Students’ ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and reach their fullest potential depends on the environment they learn in. And that is why Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, so that all our nation’s students can experience a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. Read more »
Children sample local fare on Taste of Washington Day.
Students at Conway Elementary School, in Mount Vernon, Wash., learned a few things about carrots last week. First, they don’t start out as “babies” in bags; they grow in the ground and have green tops. And second, as the third grade boys can attest, they’re good for an impromptu sword fight. Bugs Bunny likes them because they are crunchy, tasty and good for you all at the same time. Students here were chomping down for all those reasons, but also because the carrots came from a farm just down the road.
Ralph’s Greenhouse supplied the carrots to Conway Elementary, while across the state Oxbow Farm, Full Circle Farm, and Local Roots Farm provided produce to Riverview School District. And last week in Vancouver, students at Fort Vancouver High School brought potluck dishes made with produce grown in their school garden. Read more »
Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.
Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.
One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »