Monday, September 3, 2007

A Piece of Luck: We get to do Farm to School!

My daughter's elementary school will be a pilot school this year in the Farm to School program: a collaborative effort of the Center for Food and Justice and the Community Food Security Coalition which assists local organizations in forging ties between school lunch programs and area food producers. Missoula's schools have been trying out this venture for the past couple of years.

The benefits of the Farm to School concept are many:
  • The school system becomes a reliable market for local farm products, providing some measure of security to existing growers and increasing overall demand for agricultural activity locally.
  • The school, in turn, has reliable sources of healthy, nutritious, top-quality foods with which to feed kids, reducing reliance on prepackaged items and junk foods, allowing the inclusion of more fresh fruits and vegetables, minimizing dependence on USDA commodity foods (largely beef and dairy), and arriving at a more appetizing result.
  • The children eat healthier, learn better nutrition habits in the long term, and often spend time learning about local and sustainable agriculture. The program can simply introduce the idea that it's possible-- even interesting-- to know where your lunch comes from.
  • As with all local, seasonal eating, the environmental benefits of all that food not grown according to a giant corporate model, and not shipped across the continent or further, are substantial.
Given how many are served by the national school lunch program each day, a widespread Farm to School mentality could have a very significant impact on local agriculture, ecosystems, and public health.

There'll be more to say on this topic later; I can attest, however, that my daughter absolutely raved about the lunch on the first day of school. Besides the Farm to School effort, the school is also making general changes to the menu in order to apply for a Gold Award in the USDA HealthierUS School challenge, changes that include:
  • more fruits and vegetables
  • more whole-grain foods and fiber
  • low-fat dairy items
  • more homemade entrees
Here's a map to help you find a Farm to School program near you.

3 comments:

OrangeClouds115 said...

How exciting! I look forward to updates!!!!

Cornfed said...

I looked at your map -- Massachusetts has the prograam, but am wondering how to find out whether schools around here specifically are connected to the very active CSA program here. I think they would be, but how best would I find out?

thirdinstar said...

cornfed,

I would think the simplest way to find out would be through school web sites regarding their lunch/nutrition programs, or simply to contact the schools and ask. :) But here are a couple of quick resources I came up with:

A list of W. Mass farms available to sell to schools: http://www.farmtoschool.org/ma/ListofFarmers5-1-06.pdf

And this site: http://www.buylocalfood.com/index.html (notice the festival at Look Park-- looks interesting!). Their Farm to School page: http://www.buylocalfood.com/farmtoschool.htm

Don't know if that helps for a start. ??