October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate connections happening all over the country and in YOUR neck of the woods between schools and local food!
According to the National Farm to School Network- Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education settings. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips.
Over the past decade, the farm to school movement has exploded across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Farm to school is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity. In addition to improving child health, when schools buy local, they create new markets for local and regional farmers and contribute to vibrant communities, a win-win-win scenario!
Since 2011, Guidestone Colorado has been working with the Salida School District and LiveWell Chaffee County to develop a comprehensive Farm to School Initiative that supports the Salida School Gardens: Healthy Food, Healthy Growing Program. Operating on three school garden sites, this program aims to be a model for food production and education integration into the schools that can be replicated throughout the Arkansas River Valley and shared with other rural communities throughout the state.
Guidestone’s Farm to School Initiative supports a continuum of engagement to provide opportunities for students from Pre-K through High School to engage with the Longfellow Elementary School and Middle School gardens as well as the Holman Farm site. In 2016, over 800 students participated in garden based hands on activities, lessons and service learning opportunities. Over the summer, local and visiting youth participated in garden camps, garden clubs, and a Youth Farmers Market that is held in partnership with the Salida Boys and Girls Club.
From the School Farm, the school district receives carrots, peas, kale, chard, tomatoes, spinach, beans, squash, cucumbers, and basil that are directly incorporated in to healthy district meals by school district food service staff. To help celebrate Farm to School Month, food service staff has cooked up a fun plan to engage students. Salida schools will participate in a taste test vote to decide between a carrot muffin and a healthy pumpkin bar. The students will choose their favorite and the winning choice will be served on Halloween.
Whether you are a food service professional, a farmer, a teacher or a food-loving family, there are plenty of ways to celebrate and get involved in National Farm to School Month! The National Farm to School Network offers a variety of free resources on its website, farmtoschool.org, including posters, stickers and a communications toolkit. You can also visit coloradofarmtoschool.org for more information and resources about Farm to School in Colorado.
To get more involved with Guidestone’s Farm to School Initiative and the Salida School Gardens program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.