How schools are promoting healthy eating after this event
Districts across the U.S. are starting to adopt farm to school programs that connect schools to locally grown foods, promote agriculture education and encourage student-tended gardens, following National Farm to School Month in October. Last year, the movement reached 8 million people.
“In today’s divided times, schools and communities are looking for strategies that unite us, and farm to school does that by offering myriad benefits for everyone, such as increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, addressing the obesity crisis, and providing economic opportunities for farmers,” Executive Director Helen Dombalis of nonprofit National Farm to School Network tells District Administration. “Numerous studies have also shown that children learn better when they eat healthier.”
For example, test scores increased at schools that contracted a healthy meal vendor, according to a recent study of 1,192 California schools conducted by the University of California, Berkeley.
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In Arizona, more than 500 schools participate in farm to school programs. For example, 30 students take home the vegetables they grow after school at Mesa Public Schools’ Keller Elementary, which provides free or reduced-price lunches for 80% of students, Cronkite News recently reported.
“The kids are eating better, they’re taking home things to share with the parents, they’re cooking those things at home – the family is then eating better at home as well,” a former Keller physical education teacher told the newspaper.
In New York, Buffalo Public Schools receives fresh-picked vegetables year-round with support from the Cornell Cooperative Extension to promote healthy eating in schools, the Cornell Chronicle recently reported.
Additionally, 25 local farmers serve fresh produce to 38,000 schoolchildren in Lawrence, Broome and Tioga counties, the newspaper reported.
In Michigan, Richmond High School recently joined three other Richmond Community Schools by adopting farm to school programs after students had been throwing out salad and fruit during lunch, Macomb Daily reported.
“There’s no processed foods or ready-to-make frozen items. This is all fresh from across Michigan,” Richmond Community Schools Food Director John Estrada told the newspaper.
In New Mexico, the United States Department of Agriculture recently awarded $100,000 to encourage healthy eating in schools and bolster local efforts to sell locally grown food to school districts in Catron, Grant, Hidalgo and Luna counties, Deming Headlight reported.
“Farm to school is a strategy that supports all the goals that schools already have, such as engaging with families and helping students eat healthier and learn more successfully. It is not something new to do,” Dombalis tells DA. “Farm-to-school programs are like training wheels on a bike that teach kids how to eat healthier, grow food and meet farmers.”
Resource: The Benefits of Farm to School
Resource: Health and Academic Achievement