Search our Resource Database

Use the quick guide to search through our resource database. You can search by topic, setting, or keywords in order to find exactly what you are looking for. Choose a filtering mechanism above to get started.

View all resources

Use the Keyword search to filter through: descriptive keywords, title, or organization.

pick a date

pick a date

Connect with your state

Farm to school is taking place in all 50 states, D.C. and U.S. Territories! Select a location from the list below to learn more or contact a Core Partner. 

National Farm to School Network

News

Keeping indigenous food knowledge alive with farm to school

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 27, 2015
This week's Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by the Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative, which has empowered campus food service operations to serve fresh, healthy school meals; installed school gardens; launched food literacy programs; and assisted school districts in their aspirations to become centers of health and wellness. The Orfalea Foundation applauds the efforts of National Farm to School Network and is proud to be a sponsor of Farm to School Month. 

 Photo Credit: FoodCorps
By FoodCorps, with featured writing from Service Member Will Conway 
From medicinal plants to preparation of traditional meals, food has always been central to the cultural teachings of Native peoples in North America. But today, Native communities experience some of the highest incidence of type 2 diabetes among children and young adults, as well the lowest access to fresh foods. That’s why from North Carolina to Arizona, and Oregon to the Hawaiian islands, FoodCorps and its local partners are committed to helping to reverse those trends and supporting efforts to celebrate and expand indigenous food knowledge.

For Native communities, the principles of farm to school make sense, but they’re not new. As FoodCorps Arizona Service Member Will Conway explains: “Prior to the existence of schools, indigenous elders educated Native youth about agricultural practices and food. As the modern world encroaches on the traditions of Native people, what is now called ‘farm to school’ has become a means for reclaiming Native identity in Native communities. Educating Native youth about the sacred importance of food to their culture has become a weapon in the fight against the damaging impacts of the food system, which has disproportionally affected Native Americans.”

In Arizona alone, FoodCorps serves the Navajo, Tohono O’odham, and Apache tribes. On Navajo Nation, Tyrone Thompson is serving a second year with the STAR School, where he is bringing his experience as a farmer in the community to connect and engage kids with fresh, healthy food. 

“Schools are the biggest institution that feeds people in our community,” Tyrone explains. So he’s helping his student take part in the entire process of bringing food from soil to tray. They plant seeds, tend to growing plants on the school farm, harvest produce, and deliver vegetables to the school’s cafeteria, where they’re used in the school lunch program. For the STAR school, farm to school means going straight from the school garden through the doors of the cafeteria!

But getting fresh foods into students’ mouths is just one piece of farm to school in Native communities. Reconnecting kids with indigenous foods, culture and traditions is an important piece of the equation. “We connect with the elders,” Tyrone explains, “because that’s where most of the indigenous knowledge is held.” 

 
Students plants native corn in Painted Desert, Arizona (Photo Credit: FoodCrops) 
In Tuba City, Will Conway works with Navajo farmers and elders to help connect kids to traditional food knowledge. They’ve set up an education plot at the community farm where the farmers and elders can teach kids about traditional plants and growing methods. “Children ranging from pre-k to 6th grade are planting native corn, melons, and beans using traditional tools,” he explains. “The elder recently taught the youth the role of corn in the Hopi creation story and the importance of preserving the corn seeds native to Tuba City.” 

And in White River, FoodCorps service member Maya Harjo is helping students from the White Mountain Apache Tribe think about food as a powerful economic tool for the community. She teamed up with the Arrowhead Business Group Camp for cooking challenge where students had 30 minutes to create a unique food product that incorporated traditional foods, as well as a sale pitch that connected the product to their tribal community. The challenge was an entertaining jumping-off point for getting students to think about food as a means of strengthening the community's economic independence and bolstering traditional food ways. 

This hands-on food education is giving students in Native communities an opportunity to rekindle their connection with Native heritage, as well as empowering them to make healthy food choices that improve health outcomes. Tapping into these roots helps gives farm to school in these communities staying power.

“Indigenous knowledge is being lost,” says Tyrone, “but it’s something we are able to keep alive through food.”


To read more about healthy habits and heritage in native communities, visit the FoodCorps Arizona blog.

School Food Justice: strengthening school meals & farm to school in Vermont

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 21, 2015
By Anore Horton, Nutrition Initiatives Director, Hunger Free Vermont, and Betsy Rosenbluth, Project Director, Vermont FEED

 Photo Credit: Vermont FEED

When Douglas has a full stomach at school, he can focus better on that sticky math problem in front of him.

When Farmer Lauren can sell her veggies or beef to the local school, she can run a stronger business that feeds her community and keeps farms viable.

When Chef Nancy has more students lining up for lunch in her school cafeteria, she has the revenue to expand her offerings and buy more local foods.

It’s easy to connect the dots between these items. And it’s why anti-hunger organizations have been teaming up with farm to school advocates in Vermont to strengthen school meal programs.

To borrow a term from the business world, we call it the “virtuous cycle” of school meals. By expanding meal participation and the food programs offered (like afterschool meals), we ensure that fewer children are hungry, so they are more likely to be ready to learn and participate.  With more kids participating in school meal programs, program revenue climbs, so schools can buy more fresh, nutritious, and local products. And with higher quality meals (along with the greater sense of ownership local food brings) more students buy those meals, boosting participation even more. And so the cycle continues. 

But where’s the leverage point to nudge this wheel into motion?

There are several. Over the past three years, Hunger-Free Vermont and VT FEED (a project of Shelburne Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT), have focused on expanding universal meals through the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the 2010 School Nutrition Act —along with promoting Provision 2 of the National School Lunch Act.  

In just two years, these two programs have brought universal meals to around 50 Vermont schools – more than 15% of Vermont’s students. 

After using the CEP less than six months, school principals reported at least a  10% increase in  participation in school meals (and as high as 38%). They also reported improved school meal program finances, and greater use of local foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. The cycle set in motion!

According to Winooski Schools Superintendent Sean McMannon, “The positive financial impact of CEP has given us more flexibility to purchase local foods.  We have more local food on the salad bar, and have been able to provide more variety in our offerings.”  

James Taffel, Co-Principal at Barre City Elementary and Middle School, also celebrated their move to universal meals, which has given students more variety and choice.  “We started offering virtually limitless fruits and vegetables of many kinds, supporting local farms and farmers whenever we can.  Kids just take what they want, and the fabulous part is that they love it!”

Then there are the “spin-off” impacts. Schools reported fewer behavior referrals and school nurse visits. One more check in the “plus” column! And by providing breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students, they’ve erased the stigma of receiving a “free” or “reduced price” meal. Another plus!  The increase in demand for local foods also makes wholesale school food programs more viable and identifies them as important customers, rather than simply recipients of donated or low cost products.

In addition to taking advantage of CEP, the Vermont farm to school/anti-hunger coalition has been urging schools to move breakfast after the bell. Research shows that the single most effective intervention a school can make to increase breakfast participation is to move breakfast after the bell in some form (grab and go, classroom, ‘second chance’, etc.). 

Over 31 million children receive low cost or free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, which runs every school day, 180 days a year. Those lunches – especially when you factor in growing breakfast, afterschool snack and summer programs – are essential for student health and nutrition. 

By putting more fresh local products on the menu, farm to school programs simply make those lunches and snacks healthier. And by getting students to taste, grow, and cook these foods, farm to school ensures the food makes it into their bellies! All students can participate in the benefits of the local foods movement!

Raise the (barn) roof! Schools invest over half a billion dollars in local communities

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 20, 2015
By Deborah Kane, Director, Office of Community Food Systems, USDA Food and Nutrition Service

 Photo Credit: USDA Food and Nutrition Service

You know what excites me more than October’s succulent pears, more than its sweet squash, and even more than the National Farm to School Month celebrations that happen on each of its days across the nation? $598 million dollars. 

That, according to preliminary results from USDA’s second Farm to School Census, is how much schools across the country spent on local foods during school year 2013-14. Earlier today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this remarkable figure, which represents an increase of $212 million (or 55%) over final results from the last Census, conducted two years ago. 

Preliminary numbers also show that more than 42,000 schools are involved in farm to school activities. Whether through buying local foods, building school gardens, or taking a field trip to a local farm, these programs improve child nutrition and provide dynamic educational experiences for students, all the while providing new market opportunities for local and regional farmers. 

Indeed, the benefits derived from adopting farm to school strategies are significant. The Census found that school districts participating in farm to school activities enjoyed at least one of the following advantages: 
  • Greater support from parents and the community
  • Greater acceptance of the new meal pattern
  • Lower school meal program costs
  • Reduced food waste 
  • Increased participation in school meals
These early results are impressive, but I don’t think they represent all of the extraordinary work happening across the nation. That’s why, from now until November 20, 2015, USDA is encouraging all food service directors to visit the Census site and follow the three easy steps outlined there to make sure their districts are included in the final count. 

 Photo Credit: USDA Food and Nutrition Service
We did a “hoo rah” at USDA when these early results came in – and we’ll surely do another when final results are released in early 2016 – but it should be noted we’ve been celebrating several other milestones and accomplishments this Farm to School Month as well. Earlier this month we cheered on USDA Farm to School grantees, and all those who support them, when distributing a summary of grants awards and impacts over the last three years of USDA Farm to School grant-making. Among other things, the report showed that the 221 awards we’ve made have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. And last week, we celebrated the announcement that our work within the Food and Nutrition Service will now be housed in a new Office of Community Food Systems. 

We’re raising the (barn) roof but know that celebrations are always more fun with a friend or two in tow. Please do join us for a review of farm to school accomplishments to date and a discussion of what’s to come for community food systems work at USDA next Thursday, October 29, at 2:00 pm ET. 

To stay up to date on all of the latest news from the Office of Community Food Systems, sign up for our e-letter

Looking back to grow forward: the importance of evaluation in farm to school

NFSN Staff Monday, October 19, 2015
By Stephanie Heim, University of Minnesota Extension



Do you remember getting docked points on your algebra test if you failed to ‘show your work?’ If the equation was 2x = 10, it wasn’t acceptable to simply write x=5.  For full points, it was important for you demonstrate how to isolate the x. As we learned from junior high algebra class, documenting the ‘how’ is essential. 

So, what makes Farm to School work, and how do we know the work is making an impact? Good evaluation cannot be divorced from good program management. Think about this for a moment; to develop and implement solid Farm to School initiatives, evaluation must be prioritized. A basic ingredient to know whether you have a good thing going is documentation. 

The Evaluation for Transformation framework released last year by the National Farm to School Network is a gold mine in determining the significance and worth of Farm to School. The framework defines the outcomes that Farm to School has the potential to achieve, and it offers common language, guidelines and metrics to understand those outcomes for the first time. 

At the beginning of 2015, Minnesota’s Statewide Farm to School Leadership team set out to learn what makes our team work and determine what outcomes have occurred as a result of our collective action. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, 208 school districts in Minnesota participated in Farm to School in the 2011-12 school year. This is up from just 18 in 2006. While we know Farm to School partnerships have flourished in Minnesota, we set out to learn what, if any, role the Farm to School Leadership team has played in this tremendous growth. This team was formed in April 2011 with the purpose to leverage resources, improve communication and collaboration, and ultimately maximize the impact of Farm to School in our state. It was built upon the strong foundation of collaboration that had already been laid, and together, we developed a team agreement as a basis for shared leadership, responsibility and accountability. 



This infographic provides a glimpse of Farm to School in Minnesota, including the benefits of our leadership team as described by 22 current and former members. An integrative leadership framework was selected to guide the evaluation of our leadership team because it is designed to increase understanding of how cross-sector collaborations are brought together to effectively address large scale, public problems.  Minnesota’s Farm to School Leadership Team is cross-sector as it consists of 11 organizations from the public and private sector with expertise from public health, rural development, education and agriculture. 

So what are our next steps? In partnership with Family Development’s Applied Research and Evaluation Team, we will work together to produce two additional documents. One will highlight the success of the Farm to School Leadership team and the growth of Farm to School activities in our state, and another will be written as a ‘how-to’ guide intended to help others build and sustain Farm to School Leadership teams and cross-sector collaborations. 

Evaluation shouldn’t be dreaded or viewed as something we ‘have’ to do. If we begin to shift our thinking to see evaluation as an integral component of Farm to School and our work and take a systems approach, evaluation not only improves how we tell our story, it ensures that Farm to School initiatives truly do help kids eat healthy, support nearby farmers, foster economic vitality and strengthen communities.

A peachy pair: growing Florida peaches for Florida kids

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 15, 2015
This week’s Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative representing more than 1,800 organic farmers across the United States. Committed to fostering health and wellness in the youth of America, Organic Valley is proud to support the National Farm to School Network.
 Photo credit: Florida Farm to School Program
By the Florida Farm to School Program
Home to some of the first farm to school activities in the country, Florida has a robust history of connecting kids to fresh, healthy food and supporting local farmers. So when it became clear that Florida citrus farmers were severely struggling to grow oranges, the Florida Farm to School Program was eager to work with growers and schools to foster new partnership opportunities - with peaches!

In recent years, the Florida citrus industry has experienced significant difficulties with citrus greening – a disease that causes citrus trees to grow green, misshapen fruit, and has killed millions of citrus plants in the United States. According to the USDA, Florida is currently producing 60 percent less citrus than what it was just 15 years ago because of this plant disease. The 2014-2015 season was particularly bad, what Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam called “a new low for Florida’s citrus industry and our state’s signature crop.” Now, some Florida citrus growers are confronting these losses by diversifying their crop and growing peaches. 

The peaches they’re growing are a new variety of “Florida Peach” recently developed by researchers at the University of Florida. This special variety can tolerate longer periods of heat than most peach varieties, better fitting Florida’s warm climate. While these Florida peaches are generally smaller in size, they are harvestable months sooner than peaches in Georgia and South Carolina. 

As these Florida peaches began ripening, our Florida Farm to School Program teamed up with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help farmers find markets for this delicious new crop. Our #1 idea? Schools! 

While most schools had never purchased Florida peaches before, many had been supportive of sourcing local food for school meals. Florida Farm to School had a network of schools to which we could promote these peaches, as well as the resources to connect and facilitate sales between growers and schools. For many citrus growers, this was a completely new market to prosper within. 

We were able to help secure new and experienced peach growers, and work with vendors and school distributors to assist with procurement. We worked to add peaches to the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program catalog, so school districts participating in the program had the opportunity to purchase fresh, Florida peaches. These districts responded with great enthusiasm to the new addition, which encouraged us to reach out to even more districts with this local fruit opportunity. 

With schools on board, the citrus farmers developed a relationships with Florida Classic Growers to create a special distribution packaging intended just for schools. This packaging can hold larger quantities of peaches than typically packages sold to grocery chains. The partnership demonstrates the opportunity and potential for schools, growers, processors and distributors to work together in creating a food supply chain that supports all parties involved. Check out the video above to see how it works!   

This spring 24 Florida school districts purchased 434,240 peaches for student to enjoy, and supported local citrus growers with more than $250,000 spent on this special local fruit. By working directly with farmers and school food service directors, the Florida Farm to School Team was able to help Florida citrus farmers during trying years, while also giving students the chance to eat a new, “Fresh from Florida” fruit in their school lunch. We’re excited to build upon this Florida Fresh Peach Promotion next season, and continue supporting economic development and healthy kids throughout our state. 

Urban farms help city kids bring field to tray

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 14, 2015
This week’s Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative representing more than 1,800 organic farmers across the United States. Committed to fostering health and wellness in the youth of America, Organic Valley is proud to support the National Farm to School Network.

   Photo Credit: Illinois Farm to School Network
By Lydia Mills, Illinois Farm to School Network 

Illinois may be corn country, but with 65 percent of the state’s population living in the Chicago area, many students have little experience with agriculture. When city kids think of farms, they typically imagine acres of pasture and red barns filled with cows. So as farm to school grows in Illinois, so do our efforts to connect students with agricultural experience in their own back yards. With farm to school field trips and lessons in the school garden, students are learning what it takes to get food from field to plate. 

Urban farms in Chicago, Springfield, and other cities in Illinois are booming, and many value community involvement as much as profits and sales. With specialties from aquaponics to livestock, and apiaries to orchards, these farms provide an opportunity for students to learn about food production and agricultural career options without leaving the city.  

Recently, I accompanied a group of elementary students from the south side of Chicago to one of these urban farms – a total distance of 5.5 miles away. Windy City Harvest Youth Farm is a small vegetable operation with high tunnels in the heart of Chicago. The farm hosts a dynamic youth development program, employing up to 90 teens from low-income communities to learn about growing food sustainably, healthy eating, and food justice advocacy. Youth Farm students not only grow good, healthy food for their neighbors – they’re proving to be the next generation of food leaders: 93 percent graduate from high school, 53 percent enroll in college, and many continue their work in Chicago’s growing urban agriculture sector. 

On our tour of this farm, the elementary students were open to experiences and opportunities they had never had before. They picked and ate mizuna greens in the high tunnels and declared them a new favorite (they also dubbed them “mizu-ka” greens!). In the raised garden beds, turnips stuck out, and the students were excited for the opportunity to harvest them – which they did with great enthusiasm. The apiary was the only section of the farm where the students held back, a bit afraid of being stung. However, they asked the farmer lots of questions, and were able to learn a great lesson about pollination. 

After this field trip, the students were noticeably more engaged in their garden at school. They were excited to spend time tending to the vegetable they were growing, and even more so when it was time to harvest. The garden was both a learning tool and an eating tool! 

Farm visits are valuable in every type of educational setting – from K-12 classes to afterschool and child care programs – and there are dozens of resources for aligning classroom curriculum with these educational tours. In Illinois, farms like Angelic Organics Learning Farm have created standards-aligned programming so that farm visits enhance classroom learning, and organizations like Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom offer numerous curriculum materials. Seven Generations Ahead distributes a free, standards-based curriculum for year round school garden education, called Sow and Grow. When field trips aren’t an option, educators are using the Adopt a Farmer Program to connect students with farmers through pen-pal style photos, letters and classroom visits.   

Farm to school programs teach students many things, including where food comes from and how to appreciate the process that it takes for food to get to our plates. Meeting farmers, whether urban or rural, and seeing their work to bring food from field to plate is just as vital as tasting new foods. This farmer-student connect is also a proven method for encouraging kids to try new food. Kids who know their food, eat their food. Visit a farm during Farm to School Month and see what your students learn! 

Salad Bars and Farm to School – A Healthy Match

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 13, 2015

By Emily Miller, Let's Move Salad Bars to School

Photo credit: Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools

Picture your child walking into the school lunchroom on their first day back to school. The doors swing open and what do they see? A salad bar brimming with fresh from the farm fruits and vegetables. Juicy grape tomatoes, red bell peppers, refreshing cucumbers - the colors and tastes make their mouth water, and gets them excited about this nutrient-packed part of school lunchtime.

At Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, we believe that salad bars and farm to school make a healthy match. The quality and freshness of local produce contributes to a tastier product that appeals to even the pickiest of eaters. And, when schools develop relationships with farmers, it opens up new avenues for teaching kids about where food comes from and how to make healthy choices. In honor of National Farm to School Month, we caught up with some of our Let’s Move salad bar recipients to see how they are making farm to school work. Here’s what we learned:

Richmond, VA
Richmond Public Schools, headed by Food Service Director Susan Roberson, is a district that’s proving urban environments can make farm to school procurement and education a priority. “We are an urban school system with most of our students living in food deserts,” Roberson explains. “They don’t have the opportunities at home to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, ” which is why having local variety in the lunchroom is so important. 

Around the same time Richmond began implementing salad bars (called garden patches in their schools) they also received a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant that allowed them to explore the readiness and eagerness of students, staff and community for fresh local food incorporated into the school system. They found that the enthusiasm was there, but the infrastructure was lacking.

“We surveyed farmers in our community to find the obstacles and challenges of transporting crop into our schools,” Roberson notes. They found what was really needed was a food hub that farmers could deliver their goods to, and where the produce could be properly readied for distribution to the district’s 44 schools. 

Richmond Public Schools is now working with the city to make this vision a reality, and the district continues to forge ahead with their emphasis on local, farm fresh options in the meantime. For example, elementary schools are implementing school gardens that yield enough crops – such as kale, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce – to serve on the salad bar. 
 
In addition, Roberson ensures that farmers visit the kids to teach them about how food makes it from field to cafeteria tray. “Some of the funniest stories are when the farmer is telling the kids ‘this is a peach, where do you think this came from?’ and the students are hollering ‘from a can!’,” Roberson said. “The students are amazed to realize that they really don’t know where food comes from. It really helps you understand the importance of what we’re doing here.”

San Diego, CA
​Salad bars are the heart of the meal program at San Diego Unified School District. With the bountiful harvest of Southern California right on their doorstep, it’s easy to understand why. Since 2006, San Diego USD has offered salad bars to their 132,000+ students. Almost ten years later, the district has over 300 salad bars dispersed throughout 180 schools—31 of which were donated by Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools!  
The San Diego team is passionate about educational activities that bring farmers and their stories to the school too, not just their harvests. “When I initially came into the district, my experience was connecting kids to where their food comes from, and coordinating farm field trips,” says farm to school coordinator Kathryn Spencer. But working in the second largest district in California, getting the kids out to the farm is logistically very difficult. Spencer’s solution is bringing the farm to them in a Harvest of the Month video that she and her team produce and edit on an iPad.“It’s a way of taking our kids on a virtual farm field trip.” 

The three to four minute videos provide information about the farmer, how the produce is harvested, a history of the item and its nutritional properties. Spencer notes that in the schools where these videos shown by teachers regularly, there’s a real difference in how students respond to trying the new items on the salad bars. “Encouraging kids to try new fruits and vegetables is always something that needs to be thought out, reinvented, and approached in different ways.” Certainly, Spencer has come up with an innovative and engaging program for San Diego Unified School District.

Bristol, Vermont 
Walking away from the salad bar with lunch trays packed with vibrant veggies, students in Bristol, Vermont are exclaiming “I love those beet things!” or “I love that kale stuff,” all thanks to Kathy Alexander. Food Service Director of the Addison Northeast Food Service Cooperative (ANFSC). There seven salad bars in this school district—one in every cafeteria. The salad bars, which consist exclusively of fresh fruits and vegetables, have transformed the way her schools serve kids. Students head to the salad bar first, where they're excited by the range of options and the fact they’re allowed to make their own choices.

Alexander works alongside ten different local farms. Last year, the food service program set a goal of 15% local procurement – and they reached it! During the early fall months, between 30% and 50% of produce is local, from both school gardens and area farms. A seasonal favorite is the Tuscan Kale Salad: light lemon vinaigrette, breadcrumbs, and kale. (Hint: shred the kale to make it more appealing and palatable.)

The students notice when the produce is local. The unique brightness of the fresh vegetables catches their eyes.  Parsnip chips and kale chips are both hugely popular. Every ANFSC school has a fruit and vegetable garden, and each school’s curriculum includes agriculture in some way. Students are actively connected to their regional food shed, whether it’s through the school garden or a field trip to a farm just down the road.

At a local legislative meeting, where preserving farm to school funding was on the agenda, Alexander brought a seventh grade boy who had graduated from a local elementary school’s farm to school curriculum. “So, I just want to know what difference it has made in your life?” inquired the legislator to the boy. The student spoke enthusiastically about his views, “Now I think twice about my food. I think about where it came from. I think about who grew it. And I think about eating it so I don’t waste it.”

More than lunch: the academic benefits of farm to school

NFSN Staff Monday, October 12, 2015
This week’s Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative representing more than 1,800 organic farmers across the United States. Committed to fostering health and wellness in the youth of America, Organic Valley is proud to support the National Farm to School Network.

Photo credit: Salem County Vocational Technical Schools

By Beth Feehan, New Jersey Department of Agriculture

We know farm to school activities are an effective approach for encouraging kids to try healthy foods, but what are the benefits of farm to school in the classroom? The short answer: there are many! With curriculum potential for courses from carpentry to English, farm to school education encompasses 21st century skills and offers engaging, hands-on learning experiences for all students. 

Salem County Career and Technical School in southern New Jersey is a shining example of the academic benefits of farm to school. With the guidance of FoodCorps service members and support from school administration, this high school went from zero farm to school programing to nearly 100% class participation within one year. What started as a simple school garden is now a cross-disciplinary learning space for nearly all of the school’s 600 students. 

For example, agriculture students dug the garden beds, and environmental science classes planted the vegetable seeds. The construction class created garden infrastructure by building a shed, trellises and compost bins. Art students designed garden signage, and the welding class built a blender bike so garden produce could be turned into smoothies. Now, English classes use the space for creative writing inspiration, and health students use the garden’s vegetables to learn about skeletal structures.  

Perhaps the most delicious classroom connection comes through the culinary arts department, whose kitchen classrooms are linked to the garden via an exterior door. Culinary students help harvest and transform the garden’s fresh produce into taste tests for their peers. Some of the dishes they’ve created include mustard-green pesto on bread made in the school’s bakery, and arugula-radish salad with local apples. The arugula salad received such a great response from students that the school’s food service director has added it to the lunch menu. 

Beyond the garden, the school teamed up with two other FoodCorps sites to design and build a Farm2You mobile classroom, which visits nearby schools to educate students about local food. The Farm2You van also sells fresh, local produce, which parents can buy when picking up their students from school. Automotive technology students helped build the vehicle from the shell of an old minibus, and computer-aided design and drafting students created a floor plan for the interior. Based on those plans, construction and welding students built the van’s interior shelving system. Graphic design students got involved by creating the Farm2You logo, and the agriculture students pitched in by contacting local farmers whose produce could be used to stock the van's shelves. 

During the 2014 Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Doug Fisher visited the school to see all of theses great farm to school activities in action. While touring the school that day, it was clear just how much of an impact the school’s garden and farm to school programming have had on the school community. It has taught students about healthy eating and local agriculture, and united the entire school around a fun and impactful cross-disciplinary project with practical lessons that will stick with students for many years to come. 

As Salem County Career and Technical School has demonstrated, farm to school education enhances student learning across the board, from encouraging critical thinking and problem solving, to fostering creativity and collaboration. Farm to school is not only effective in getting kids excited about local food, but engages students in hands-on learning activities and lessons that go beyond school walls. This is just one school’s story, and there are thousands more. It’s how we know farm to school works, and it’s why we’re celebrating National Farm to School Month! 

Previous   .. 4 5 6 7 8 .. 10   Next