What is Farm to School?

  • Farm to School is a movement that aims to build connections between students, school nutrition programs, and agriculture. Farm to school initiatives include getting local produce into school cafeterias, classrooms (K-12) and child care centers (Pre-K). Farm to school programs provide a wide variety of opportunities and education around healthy local foods, from creating school gardens, hosting scratch cooking lessons, to visiting local farms.

  • Farm to School programs not only benefit a child’s nutritional education and eating habits but also impacts their families and communities to make healthier purchases. Farm to school can help build a more sustainable local economy and develop a stronger sense of connectedness within a local community.

 

The Three Pillars of Farm to School

  • Education plays a significant role in the Farm to School program. Students can take part in hands-on educational activities. These activities can be anywhere from learning about agriculture, food, as well as health and nutrition.  
  • Procurement, the second pillar of Farm to School, focuses on the purchasing and connections built within local produce. Then local foods are later promoted and served in cafeterias or educational classrooms. 
  • School Gardens’ third pillar focuses on the student’s involvement and engagement in producing, growing, and learning about gardens.

 

Background on the National Movement

  • The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) was formed in 2007 and brought together more than 30 organizations, seeking to shape and increase the farm to school movement. Farm to School provides children and family members with the tools they need necessary to make informed food choices, providing support at the state, regional and national levels. NFSN increases access to local food and nutrition education to improve children’s health, strengthen family farms, and cultivate vibrant communities. Farm to School can help strengthen the community in a multitude of ways: boosting the local economy as well as building closer connections between students, parents, schools, farmers, and their environment.
  • NFSN has grown out of a handful of participating schools in the 1990s to 42,000 schools in all 50 states.
  • National Farm to School Network envisions a nation in which farm to school programs are an essential component of strong and just local and regional food systems, ensuring the health of all school children, farms, environment, economy and communities.

Benefits for Students 

  • Due to a rising increase in children not eating healthy foods and not meeting recommended requirements, this program allows children and students to meet those daily requirements in the comfort of their cafeteria or educational setting. 
  • Farm to School pairs with school districts and local farms, giving you as a parent the reassurance that fresh-farm foods will make it onto your child’s lunch tray.
  • Children spend the majority of their childhood into adolescence in a classroom or early childcare setting; this is where they develop eating habits, knowledge of what and what not to eat, and consume a large number of calories. This program will not only provide nutritional based foods but also inform children with nutrition education lessons, portioning, where their food is coming from, and moderation.
  • Children spent a large portion of their time in school. Introducing healthy-farm grown foods into cafeterias will impact their food choices, and positively impact their “at home” food choices.
  • The involvement of Farm to schools will help provide children and their families with gradual, sustainable, healthy behaviors.
  • Children will gain knowledge and awareness of gardening, agriculture, healthy eating, local foods, seasonality, and harvesting periods.
  • Exploring new food groups, understanding and identifying nutritionally beneficial foods, as well as learning about moderation and portioning.
  • Gardening can help kickstart a new hobby, passion for your child as well as giving a better understanding and basis of the environment.

 

Benefits for Farmers

  • Supports local families who live on farms. 
  • Increases market opportunities for farmers, ranchers, fishers as well as food producers and manufacturers.
  • Farm to school programs can open up the expansive school food market to local farmers.

 

Here in Maine

  • The Maine chapter of the National Farm to School Network is based out of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area. Operating under a shared network leadership model, HCCA staffers Stephanie Cesario and Renee Page work to coordinate FTS stakeholders from around the state. The statewide network leaders include state agency representatives, school nutrition directors, and cooperative extension, and nonprofit partners. Read about the Leadership Council at www.mainefarmtoschool.org/leadership-council

 

Want to Learn More?

National Farm to School Network:

  • Instagram: @farmtoschool

 

Maine Farm to School Network