In 2010, Congress designated October as National Farm to School Month. This demonstrates the importance that farm to school programs have on improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and educating children on where their food comes from.
WHAT IS FARM TO SCHOOL?
Farm visits, taste education, serving locally grown items during school meals or planting a school garden are farm to school activities that help students connect with fresh food. Research shows that students exposed to farm to school activities are more likely to consume fresh and whole foods compared to students without access to these programs. Of the 57 percent of Arizona school districts that responded to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, nearly 50 percent reported that they currently participate in or are planning to start farm to school activities. During the 2013-2014 school year, school food service spent more than seven million dollars on local products, which in turn stayed in Arizona for economic development.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN ARIZONA?
For many Arizona schools, celebrating National Farm to School Month is an opportunity to launch their fall garden, taste fall treats like winter squash and apples, visit a farm, pen pal with an Arizona producer, and more. However schools choose to participate, the goal of this month is to celebrate agriculture, good food and the connections students make to health and habit.
Let’s encourage parents, teachers, food-service professionals, administrators, producers and other community members to get involved in the celebration. Here are three simple ways to help bring awareness to Arizona Farm to School Programs:
1 Find something Arizona-grown to highlight at a snack, meal or taste test during the month of October. Visit azed.gov for resources on seasonal produce items and where to purchase local products.
2 Utilize Arizona’s teacher resources for agriculture and nutrition education. These resources can be found at azed.gov.
3 Spread the word about National Farm to School Month by sharing stories on social media using the hashtags #F2SMonth #farm2school and #AZF2S.
The Arizona Department of Education’s Health and Nutrition Services Division has been working to connect students to agriculture in the cafeteria and in the classroom since 2011. Arizona Farm to School programs could not exist without the support and dedication of partner organizations that have been working on agriculture and nutrition education, and from those that support key stakeholders in this movement: producers, teachers and food-service professionals.
Partners of Arizona Farm to School include: Arizona Department of Agriculture; Arizona Department of Health Services; University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Science Cooperative Extension; Arizona Farm Bureau; Local First Arizona; and FoodCorps AZ.
For more information on Arizona Farm to School or for resources mentioned above, visit azed.gov or follow Arizona Farm to School on Facebook.
Ashley Schimke is a program specialist for the Arizona Department of Education working to bring Arizona-grown foods into school meal programs. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Dietetics at Arizona State University and is an active member of the Maricopa County Food System Coalition.
Photo courtesy of Amy Garza, Tempe Elementary School District.
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