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Posts tagged: School Gardens

State Agencies are Bringing the Farm to School!

State agency materials at annual USDA Farm to School Grantee gathering

Materials from state agencies are displayed at the annual USDA Farm to School Grantee gathering.

From organizing statewide conferences, to training farmers and child nutrition professionals, to developing farm to school curricula and resources, state agencies are playing a big role in bringing the farm to school. This fact sheet describes effective strategies state agencies are using to help community food systems take root. Here’s a sampling of three ways state agencies are making an impact. Read more »

National Farm to School Month Highlights Benefits to America’s Students and Communities

Vegetables in trays and pumpkins on top

The local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.

It’s National Farm to School Month and USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems is here to help…and not just in October!  All year long, we offer research, grants, training and technical assistance to help connect child nutrition programs with local foods.  Here’s why.

Farm to school helps form healthy habits. By incorporating local foods, farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.  And the results are impressive.  The recent 2015 USDA Farm to School Census shows farm to school programs now exist in every state in the nation and in every type of school district – large and small, rural and urban alike. With that in mind, we plan to build on this momentum! Read more »

Sowing Gardens, and Growing Kids Who Love Them

Cherokee Central Schools students participating in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden

Cherokee Central Schools students participate in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden, which is planted with traditional varieties of vegetables grown for generations by the Cherokee people.

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, guest blog writer Katie Rainwater, also a FoodCorps Service Member, shares her remarkable experience at Cherokee Central Schools, a 2014 USDA Farm to School Grantee.

Guest blog by Katie Rainwater, FoodCorps

Imagine this: A bright, sunny fall day in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Fresh, organic greens, lovingly raised in Cherokee Central Schools’ garden, and harvested that same day. Now add 22 elementary students proudly waving signs and banners they decorated the day before, boasting the beauty of their garden bounty, and advertising their Fall Greens Sale. If you ever bought into the idea that “kids don’t like vegetables,” our elementary schoolers could have changed your mind that day. Stationed in front of the school during after-school pick-up time, every car and person within reach received a glowing description of the wondrous greens the students helped grow, the most popular being a local native variety called Creasy Greens. Bedecked in fruit and vegetable costumes, these kids were convincing adults that they should eat their veggies! As a genuine testament to their enthusiasm and love for their harvest, they sold almost all of the 321 pounds of greens harvested that day. Read more »

During National Farm to School Month, USDA Celebrates Grantees’ Accomplishments and a New Office

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serving up a local lunch, including kale

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.

Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.

A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »

Connecting Schoolchildren to Healthy Food Choices

Concannon chats with Takoma Park Middle School’s eighth grade Family and Consumer Science class, where students examine food labeling and packaging.

Concannon chats with Takoma Park Middle School’s eighth grade Family and Consumer Science class, where students examine food labeling and packaging.

Last month, schools all across the nation celebrated National School Lunch Week, honoring the importance of healthy meals to education.  I was able to join in one of these celebrations right here in the national Capital area, and the great things I saw at Takoma Park (Md.) Middle School are still fresh in my mind.

I was already aware of the commitment that the Division of Nutrition and Food Services of Montgomery County Public Schools has made to serving healthy meals, as well some of the important strides they have taken across this large district.  But on this trip, I wanted to see first-hand how Takoma Park Principal Alicia Teeny and her teaching staff connect children in the classroom to healthy food choices. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Serving Up Healthy Food and a Healthier Next Generation

This article was originally posted on Read the original here.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I take USDA’s nickname of the “People’s Department”—first coined by President Abraham Lincoln—to heart. Over the past five years, we have worked hard to build upon our tradition of service to the American people, supporting both the farmers and ranchers who grow our food and giving American families confidence that the food they buy at the grocery store is safe, healthy and affordable.

We could not accomplish our mission without the contributions of partner organizations and individual volunteers across the country. While our work with volunteers is by no means exclusive to nutrition and nutrition education, volunteers act as our boots on the ground in classrooms and communities to teach kids about where food comes from and why the diet and lifestyle choices they make today matter for their future. Volunteers, along with parents, teachers, school administrators, and school food service professionals, are absolutely critical to our efforts to improve childhood nutrition and help this generation of youngsters grow up healthy and strong. Read more »