Celebrate Farm to School Month!
Did you know that October is Farm to School month where fresh, local food is used at nearby schools and served to hungry kids? Depending on where you live, your local produce might include crisp apples, the last juicy tomatoes, firm acorn squash, or a fall crop of greens.
Farm to School programs are a good investment. It turns out that when schools offer local food options to kids, it’s a win-win solution both for students’ healthy eating and for local farmers’ bottom line. In fact, University of Florida researchers found that students attending schools that participate in Farm to School programs eat 37% more vegetables and 11% more fruit than they did before the programs were implemented.
And, Florida schools aren’t alone — numerous studies have found that Farm to School programs get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, decrease how much kids throw away, and build student knowledge of healthy eating habits that will positively shape their dietary preferences for the rest of their lives.
With these proven successes, you can help Farm to School programs reach more kids. While the federal Farm to School grant program has made great progress in linking local farms to schools, it still only funds a fraction of the eligible applications every year. One of Food Policy Action’s partner organizations, the National Farm to School Network, has proposed two complementary bills that would 1) increase funding for Farm to School programs, and, 2) allow schools to prioritize serving local food and encourage Farm to School grant projects to actively include beginning farmers, veterans, and socially disadvantaged farmers.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Farm to School grants will reach 2.8 million students but 66% of those kids are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. What does this mean? That we have to protect access to school meal programs. And, for kids to benefit from Farm to School programs, we have to advocate against any legislative or regulatory changes that would erect barriers to kids from low-income families to get free and reduced-price meals. Just last month, the Trump administration closed a comment period on their proposed rule change to disqualify up to 500,000 kids from school meals. This cut would also mean more paperwork for schools making them spend more time verifying students’ individual eligibility instead of focusing on better strategies to get fresh, healthy meals into their schools and into hungry kids’ tummies.
So this October, as the weather turns cooler and we prepare for Halloween, please take time to find out about Farm to School programs in your community. Learn about them and share your success stories with us on Facebook or Twitter. And be prepared, as we expect the need to raise our voices to help our schools feed our kids with fresh, local food.