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Healthy Eating: Farm to School

The Farm to School Program is a USDA-developed program designed to connect schools with local farms and food producers. The program is a great way to improve student health, strengthen local agriculture and farming communities, and promote awareness within the student body of regional food systems. The Farm to School program empowers school children and their families to make more informed decisions on where they buy their food. How Farm to School programs are implemented will vary from community to community, but they always follow the same core elements: procurement, education, and school gardens. These elements are designed for kids to have a hands-on learning experience to better understand where their food comes from and how it makes its way from the garden to their plates.

Benefits of Farm to School for Students

The Farm to School program provides students access to high-quality and nutritious local food and the opportunity to learn about where food comes from and how to grow their own food. Individual programs also offer a variety of learning experiences and activities within the classroom, lessons on healthy eating and nutrition, as well as simple cooking activities may be part of the school's program. Students who have experienced The Farm to School program may be more likely to eat a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. They may also give more thought to eating well than their peers who haven't gone through such a program. Students will also gain a better understanding of organic, seasonal, and local farming which can help them make better food choices based on their food values.

Benefits of Farm to School for Farmers

The Farm to School program can be especially beneficial for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food manufacturers, and food processors. It offers great financial incentives by opening the doors to a market that could potentially be worth billions of dollars. This program has helped revitalize rural economies with over $800 million in spending being reported going to local food producers and manufacturers which has helped create and maintain jobs. This also generates extra spending in local economies where all the money stays local.

Benefits of Farm to School for Communities

Students and farmers are the most obvious benefactors of this program, but everybody benefits from it, even teachers, administrators, and parents! It provides opportunities to build community engagement as well as family engagement by encouraging community members to buy from local producers. It creates new jobs and strengthens the state and local economy.

Most community members don't know where their food comes from or even how farming can contribute to local food production. Many community members may not be comfortable trying new fruits and vegetables and this program is great for not only getting students to try new things but their families as well! With interactive methods of learning about food and where they come from, kids will be more likely to share what they've learned with their families which can open up a whole new world for some families!

Get Help With Your Farm to School Program

For those are those interested in starting their own Farm to School program at their local k-12 schools or early care and education sites, you can get in contact with your local regional coordinator. A coordinator can help you get in contact with educators, farmers, distributors, and school food authorities. There are plenty of coordinators located in every state who understand the regional knowledge and expertise necessary to successfully establish and support a program like this.

The program also has grant funding up to $100,000 per project for eligible applicants like k-12 public schools, not-for-profit schools, charter schools, Indian tribal organizations, and any entity that participates in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, or the Summer Food Service Program. If you've already started your own program, the grant funding can also be used to employ a Farm to School coordinator, train food service staff to increase their knowledge of how to procure and prepare locally produced food, purchase kitchen equipment to increase cooking capacity, and improve the transport and storage of the locally produced food.

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