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What is Farm to School?

Farm to School enriches the connection communities have with fresh and healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools, preschools and child care centers. Farm to School is also a movement to establish healthy eating habits in children but it also emphasizes the procurement of local foods, classroom education and gardening. These three components work together to get children on the path to good health and wellness.

How does Farm to School help schools, preschools and child care centers?

The Farm to School model works to connect schools (preschools, Head Start, center-based programs, programs in K-12 schools and family child care programs) to local producers with the objectives of serving locally grown, healthy foods to young children, improving child nutrition and providing related educational opportunities. Not only are children able to consume healthy food secured from local producers but they learn where their food comes from and why healthy eating is important. Students also engage in experiential learning through school and community gardening.

Benefits of Farm to School

Farm to School activities provide a variety of benefits to students, parents, schools, communities and food producers. Franklin County Public Health (FCPH) will help highlight some of those benefits and how we can strategically work together in Central Ohio.

Public Health:The school is an ideal environment to establish healthy eating habits among children and it is also a critical time to address childhood hunger and obesity prevention. Many children consume most of their daily calories in school and are relying upon their school to create a healthy environment. Farm to School activities can increase a child’s willingness to try new foods and continue on the path to healthy eating throughout their lifetime. Evidence shows that Farm to School participation contributes to choosing healthier options at school meals, consuming more fruits and vegetables at school meals and at home, reduced screen time and increased physical activity.  Communities as a whole can benefit from this program because families are learning how food is grown and how it affects their health and wellness.

Economy:Farm to School programs help support the local economy with awareness being the first step of support. Increased interest in purchasing local products helps provide business to local farmers and stimulate the local economy. Research shows that Farm to School programs lead to job creation and maintenance and improve household food security.

Education:It is well known that healthy learners are better learners. From experiential learning in the garden to taste-testing in the cafeteria, this increased awareness and access to healthy local foods enhances the educational experiences for students. Farm to School curriculum, nutrition, sustainability and agricultural education and learning about the food system as a whole are all great strategies to enrich core subjects such as science, math and language arts.

Environment:In the United States we use more energy to get our fruits and vegetables to the plate than we recoup from actually eating the food. The typical produce that you purchase from the grocery store can easily travel up to 1,500 miles from the farm to its final destination on your plate. Because food is traveling long distances across the country this also impacts the way in which it is processed and the quality of the food. Have you ever bought the same product from a local farmer as you have from the grocery? Chances are the same food tastes vastly different. That’s because local food is harvested when it is supposed to be – when it is ripe. Aside from the quality of food there are also social and economic implications of food waste. School food purchasing practices coupled with education is a great way to mitigate climate change and the impact that food has on the environment.

Farm to School Helps Everyone

Kids win! Farmers win! Communities win! Farm to School provides kids access to nutritious, high quality local foods while serving as a financial opportunity to farmers and producers within your community. This community based food systems approach shortens the distance between farms to table. Buying local supports the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint of transportation. All of these create a healthy environment within and around our schools and our children’s future!

Resources

Farm to School Network


Farm to Preschool Network

LocalHarvest.org


2017 YMCA Summer Food Program