October is National Farm to School Month! Farm to School is way to connect schools and local farms. This approach facilitates lifelong habits of healthy eating and lifestyle choices.
Anupama Joshi, executive director of the National Farm to School Network spoke to Healthy Schools Campaign to share her excitement for this month-long celebration. The National Farm to School Network aims to enable every child to have access to nutritious food while simultaneously benefiting communities and local farmers. The NFSN works to promote and implement Farm to School programs, as well as facilitate healthy eating and active living strategies in schools across the country.
At a kick-off event, Joshi presented a "Farm to School Champion Award" to Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who was instrumental in introducing a resolution in Congress to commemorate October as National Farm to School Month.
Joshi notes that there are several ways agriculture can be integrated into the educational experience.
“Food is an integral part of everyone's daily life and can be used as a successful tool for teaching a variety of core curricular concepts in the areas of math, science, history, language,” she said. “Since more than 30 million children eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year, school meals are a significant entry point for improving child health.”
Parents can help support Farm to School programs by:
- Getting involved in a local program. Joshi suggests a first step is to find out if your school has a Farm to School program.
- Working with the school community to build a relationship with local farmers. “This can be promoting a local event focused on local agriculture, helping with a taste test, chaperoning a farm tour, or volunteering in the cafeteria or classroom,” she said.
Joshi also encourages teachers to get involved by incorporating lesson plans and hands-on activities using local foods and healthy eating.
Canter Middle School student picks apples during field trip to Riveridge apple orchards.
“By incorporating agriculture and nutrition education into the classrooms, Farm to School programs are engaging children in food and healthy eating,” said Joshi. These opportunities include farm visits, taste tests, gardening, and recycling programs that support healthy habits among students.
Farm to School has a tremendous impact on students and the community. Joshi explained: “Data from existing Farm to School programs has shown that even in the most vulnerable communities and schools, offering local, fresh, and healthy products in cafeterias can increase student consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables by more than one additional serving per day; increase awareness about healthy eating; and facilitate a forum for discussion about health, nutrition and food security issues at the school and in the community at large.”
Along with access to healthy food, Farm to School efforts can improve family diet, lifestyle choices, school meal participation and much more.
Joshi added, “Farm to School at its core is about establishing relationships between local foods and school children.”
We wish our friends much success in promoting Farm to School year-round!
For more information, please visit farmtoschoolmonth.org.
We’ll continue to share Farm to School update throughout the month. Check out our latest Farm to School updates on the HSC blog.
Plus: How are you celebrating Farm to School month in your community?