As childhood obesity approaches an epidemic, medical professionals, nutritionists, and parents are starting to pay attention to what kids are eating at school. Unfortunately, it’s mostly processed, pre-packaged foods, high in fat, salt, sugar and preservatives. But, there’s one program that’s restoring some sanity—and good nutrition—to school lunch menus around the country.
The National Farm to School Network is a collaborative project of the Center for Food & Justice (CFJ), and the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC). Founded in 2007, Farm to School brings healthy fresh food from local farms directly to local school cafeterias. Beside providing delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, the program teaches students about how food is produced and instills healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. It supports community-based agriculture, strengthens family farms, helps reduce childhood obesity. and mitigates the environmental impact of transporting food long distances. Not only do kids enjoy nutritious farm fresh food, they learn that their food choices have consequences—for their bodies, the environment and their communities.
Currently, there are approximately 2,224 Farm to School programs spread across 45 states with 2,105 school districts involved.
Here is some information from the Farm to School website:
Farm to School programs are good for children
- The choice of healthier options in the cafeteria through Farm to School meals results in consumption of more fruits and vegetables with an average increase of one serving per day, including at home.
- Farm fresh products taste better, and it has been shown that children prefer them to non-local products.
- Farm to school programs can help improve children’s health and help alleviate current childhood health problems like obesity and early-onset type II diabetes
Farm to School programs are good for schools
- Schools report a 3 to 16 percent increase in school meal participation when farm-fresh food is served, thus bringing more funds into the schools.
- Less price fluctuation occurs over the course of the year because the products are not sourced from different venues across the country that charge different prices.
- Local produce can actually cost less than highly processed versions currently delivered to schools.
- Farm to school programs are known to facilitate education about nutrition, food and agriculture in and out of the classroom.
Because of the program’s success, there are six bills in Congress trying to work their way into the Child Nutrition Reauthorization that include funding for Farm to School:
H.R. 4710 Farm to School Improvements Act of 2010—Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ)–would provide $50 million in mandatory funding for a competitive grant program supporting Farm to School programs at USDA.
H.R. 4333 Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009—Representative Sam Farr (D-CA)—this comprehensive bill is aimed at supporting salad bars in school, increasing funding for equipment, and also includes language similar to Rep. Holt’s language in support of Farm to School
H.R. 5456 National Farm-to-School Act of 2010—Representative Betty McCollum—would authorize discretionary funding for a competitive grant program supporting Farm to School programs at USDA, and encourages the use of existing USDA programs to support Farm to School efforts.
H.R. 5209 Healthy Communities through Helping to Offer Incentives and Choices to Everyone in Society Act of 2010—Representative Ron Kind—this comprehensive bill is aimed at combating obesity and includes language authorizing Farm to School programs
S. 3123 Growing Farm to School Programs Act of 2010—Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)–would provide $50 million in mandatory funding for a competitive grant program supporting Farm to School programs at USDA.
S. 3144 Healthy Food in Schools Act of 2010—Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)—this comprehensive bill is aimed at supporting salad bars in school, increasing funding for equipment, and also includes language similar to Rep. Holt’s language in support of Farm to School
Madonna Gauding is a freelance writer, illustrator and book designer living in St. Louis. MO. She is the author of 10 books on a variety of "mind, body, spirit" topics.