Farm-to-school leaders and advocates have been instrumental in building children’s understanding and connections to fresh, healthy food. The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is meeting this week to further its cause. Among the featured initiatives are a Sea to School Guide for school lunch programs in Maine and pop-up school markets outside childcare facilities in areas of Georgia. Both initiatives received funding support through Farm Credit and Newman’s Own Foundation as part of the NSFN Innovation Awards.
In honor of the farm-to-school movement, we are highlighting some of the initiatives we have had the privilege of supporting through grants and donations. Some focus on local food sourcing, such as donations of beef by producers to school lunch programs, with FCSAmerica paying the processing cost. Others focus on educating school-age children about how their food is processed.
Here is a sampling of the creativity and commitment of farm-to-school advocates in our area:
Raising Nebraska - An interactive exhibit hall built on the grounds of the Nebraska State Fair, Raising Nebraska engages the mind and senses of visitors, many of them school children. Exhibits allow people to interact through a virtual combine ride, full-scale pivot irrigation experience and a learning kitchen. The Conversation Pit, Grain Bin Theatre, Agrihouse and Trusted Voices make agriculture real for a consumer audience and showcase the ongoing innovation in food production.
Farm Chat Tool - Even in a rural area like Iowa’s Mitchell County, a growing number of young people have little, if any, experience in agriculture. The result is a growing knowledge gap about how farms operate and how food is produced. Through “virtual farm tours” using tablet computers, students in the Osage Community School District can experience agriculture.
The Big Garden - Building on its community garden model in the states of Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, the Big Garden Farm to School installs edible school gardens and bring our educators into the classroom to share gardening, cooking, nutrition, and preserving skills. During the growing season, food produced in the school garden is used for snacks and distributed to families for use at home. This program connects participants with their local food system as we enjoy local food snacks, meet local farmers, and even visit farms in the area.
Sioux YMCA Learning Garden - Located on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in Dupree, South Dakota, the “Onspewicakiyapi Wojupi,” Lakota for learning garden, is a seed-to-plate concept: young participants do everything from starting seeds, building raised beds and managing soils to cooking and preserving products harvested from the garden.
Truck Farm - No More Empty Pots is a non-profit using a 1975 Chevy pickup transformed into a mobile mini-farm – dubbed Truck Farm Omaha – to educate urban youth about agriculture. FCSAmerica provided a grant for the Truck Farm Omaha program, which reaches 2,000 inner-city youth living in areas where there is limited access to fresh and healthy food, or “food deserts.” Truck Farm Omaha partners with elementary and middle schools during the school year and with an immigrant and refugee program during the summer months.