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Farm to School Programs Empower Child Health in the Classroom

By Heather Sowalla | Urban Agriculture, Urban Farming

Children aren’t just learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic anymore. In a world where food insecurity is as common as the sniffles, schools are focusing more of their attention on the environment and how our actions have an impact. In particular, many schools are focusing on food security and insecurity. Today it’s as common for our children to have a class devoted to gardening as it is to have gym or art. That is where the USDA’s Farm to School program comes into play.

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What is Farm to School?

Farm to School programs focus their efforts on bringing locally produced foods into school cafeterias. The program teaches students what it takes to create edible food sources from seed to plant. Students learn by participating in hands-on activities such as gardening, local farm tours, and classes like home economics where they focus on a curriculum that helps them understand the process food production.

Local Food in the Cafeteria

I bet everyone remembers what their school lunches were made of. Was it mystery meat Monday? Pizza Friday? Not anymore! Schools that are taking part in the Farm to School program have a chance to take produce from local and regional farms and put them on the students’ trays. Healthy foods ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables, to the ingredients used to make pizza, chili and more are brought to the school for students to consume. It’s not only a healthier source of nutrients for the students, but it provides business to local industries such as farming, fishing, and manufacturing.

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Farm to School in Action

The Santa Cruz City School (SCCS) is a Farm to School success story. SCCS can buy large amounts of produce from local and regional farms. They’re also involved in a movement known as the Network for a Healthy California which encompasses district-wide garden plans where students raise money to build gardens for the school. These gardens are then implemented into their educational programs such as the FoodWhat youth program, which offers internships at local farms for teens. Through networking with UC Santa Cruz, SCCS is able to bring local foods to the school which is served to students thereby allowing for healthier school meals. Students are able to gain an understanding about the delicacy of the environment and what it takes to properly manage a farm to  produce a large bounty of fresh produce to be consumed locally.

Farm to School Benefits

The Farm to School program deepens the connection between students and their surrounding environment by linking them to locally grown food. These programs provide a variety of benefits to everyone involved. By taking part in Farm to School activities students are given healthy options for food in the cafeteria and at home. School and community gardens through the Farm to School program can bring health and vitality to communities by providing not only healthy food options but also opportunities for the economy to flourish through the creation of jobs.

Feature Image: Farm to school programs ensue farming is part of the curriculum. Image via Edible East End.

About The Author

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My name I Heather Sowalla. I have a passion for the environment starting from the time I was a young girl. I fell in love with hiking and fishing, even playing with bugs! As I grew older my passions began to develop into something that I could mold my education around. Starting with my undergrad degree I focused on fish and wildlife management which took me from central Pennsylvania the entire way to Alaska for an internship with the Student Conservation Association. After that I decided, due to health reasons, that I needed a change of pace and so I moved in a direction of sustainability, in particular agriculture and food security and now as I work through my internship - I plan on graduating in the Spring of 2015 with my Masters. What will I do after that? Well ... I'm not really sure. Maybe I will be the next great of the Environmental Era? Maybe not ... but I will do my best to try!