Chicago, IL (PRWEB) November 06, 2013
Throughout October, schools and preschools across the country celebrated National Farm to School Month with locally sourced school meals, garden festivals, farm field trips and other events that helped students improve their food and agricultural literacy and their diets while offering local farmers a new market.
Farm to school is the practice of sourcing local food for schools or preschools and providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, such as school gardens, farm field trips and cooking lessons. Congress recognized the myriad benefits of farm to school in 2010 by approving a resolution officially designating October as National Farm to School Month.
According to Anupama Joshi, executive director of the National Farm to School Network, Farm to School Month 2013 was a great opportunity for schools, even if they had no prior experience with farm to school practices.
“Some schools used Farm to School Month to highlight their long-standing programs while others took advantage of the occasion to launch a new garden or purchase food from a local farmer for the first time,” Joshi said.
Most schools start small when they first institute farm to school practices, perhaps hosting a taste test of one local product in their cafeteria or having a farmer visit their classroom, but one school in Pennsylvania decided to go big with their first project.
“We spent the month constructing a hydroponics growing system to grow lettuce to be used in our school's cafeteria,” said Ann Meyer, a teacher at McConnellsburg High School in Pennsylvania. “The students were divided into groups and assigned specific tasks for the construction. Hopefully by this time next year we can report many more exciting farm to school activities involving our whole school and the fresh produce we are supplying for our daily lunches!”
On the other side of the country (in a very different growing climate,) students in Juneau, Alaska were treated to local fish on their lunch menu. “During the month of October, [we] served Alaska fish burger, Alaska baked halibut, Alaska fish tacos, Alaska fish nuggets and Alaska baked salmon,” said Adrianne Schwartz, Juneau’s food services supervisor. “Local sugar snap peas and carrots were served during the month of September. These types of Alaskan foods will continue being served all school year with additional items, such as locally grown cabbage made into a coleslaw, barley cereal, fireweed honey and more.”
These Farm to School Month stories and many others were collected through an ongoing contest hosted by the National Farm to School Network called Farm to School Counts. The contest is open through November 30. To participate, fill out a short survey at http://www.farmtoschoolmonth.org/farm-to-school-counts-pledge/ and you will be entered in a drawing for one of several prizes including free registration to the 7th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Powering Up, which will be held in Austin, Texas in April 2014.
According to new data collected by the USDA through the first national Farm to School Census, an estimated 38,629 schools serving more than 21 million students participated in farm to school practices during the 2011-2012 school year. Collectively, schools spent more than $354 million dollars on locally sourced food. But farm to school isn’t all about the cafeteria: 3,473 schools reported having edible school gardens and 13 percent of respondents conducted student field trips to farms.
“The new census data is an important milestone for the farm to school movement,” Joshi said. “The National Farm to School Network initiated discussions and planning with USDA for conducting the Farm to Census, including assistance in drafting preliminary versions, so we are excited to see the project come to fruition.”
Efforts to collect census data will continue through November 30. To view USDA census data from your state and submit or update information for your school district, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census#/map
About the National Farm to School Network
The National Farm to School Network (NFSN), founded in 2007, seeks to create strong and just local food systems that ensure the health of children, farms, the environment, the economy and communities. NFSN provides vision, leadership and support to connect and strengthen the farm to school movement, which includes tens-of-thousands of schools in all 50 states.