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    National Farm to School Month: Celebrating the Small Actions that have Grown a Big Movement

    October 20, 2017
    by Anupama Joshi

    Blue Sky is celebrating National Farm to School Month! We are thrilled to bring you this blog post from Anupama Joshi, co-founder and executive director of the National Farm to School Network. Anupama was also featured on Blue Sky's farm to school webinar on October 11, 2017.

    Every October, thousands of schools, early care and education sites, farms, communities, and organizations across the country come together to celebrate food education, school gardens, and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients. October is National Farm to School Month, an annual celebration brought to life by Congress in 2010 in order to raise awareness of the importance of farm to school as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and educate communities about the origins of their food.

    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 sites. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons, and farm field trips. These farm to school practices empower children and their families to make informed food choices, while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. While the implementation of farm to school is different in every community, it always includes one or more of these core elements:

    • Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste test; 
    • Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health, or nutrition; and
    • School gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening.

    The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy, and networking hub for communities doing this work of bringing local food sourcing, school gardens, and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. Our network provides vision, leadership, and support at the local, state, and national levels to connect and expand the farm to school movement, and includes Core Partner and Supporting Partner organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories, thousands of farm to school supporters, a national Advisory Board, and staff.

    At its core, farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by ordinary people who have taken small actions in their communities to bring more local food sourcing and food and agriculture education to our nation’s children. And those small actions have created big impact. The farm to school movement has grown from just a handful of schools in the late 1990s to reaching more than 23.6 million students nationwide today, with schools investing more than $789 million in their communities by purchasing local products from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and other food producers, and growing 7,101 school gardens.

    That’s why this October for National Farm to School Month, we’re celebrating the small ways that everyone can take to get informed, get involved, and take action to support farm to school in their communities and across the country. Because together, we can keep this movement growing! 

    We are asking people to sign our Take Action Pledge and share with us the small actions they’re taking this month to support farm to school. Here is a snapshot of what we have heard so far this month:

    • Emily from Alaska is cooking in the classroom with Alaska-grown produce from the school garden and local farmer’s markets
    • Earl from Alabama is supplying persimmons from his farm to area schools for a taste test with students
    • Priscilla from Texas is starting a compost pile for food scraps
    • Desiree from Oregon is hosting a “Bring Your Partner to Lunch Day” that will feature a menu of locally-grown peaches
    • Kate from Connecticut is making pickles with her students

    Regionally, schools are celebrating National Farm to School Month with events like the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, which had more than 1,405,710 student participants across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio chomping into local apples. In the Midwest, thousands of students enjoyed fresh, healthy food with a “Midwest Menu” on October 5, featuring local chicken, vegetables, apples, and a whole grain side that showcased local autumn bounty.

    In fact, there are Farm to School Month celebrations taking place in every state this month. Governors in Arkansas, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont have made proclamations declaring October Farm to School Month in their states. Georgia is getting kids to explore new foods with “Make Room for Legumes, ” Washington students sampled local food for Taste Washington Day, and Indiana is getting kids to “stalk about Brussels sprouts” with activities in the classroom, cafeteria, and garden. We could keep going! 

    Research shows that farm to school works. Students are eating more fruits and vegetables; farmers and food producers have access to new, diversified market and increased income opportunities; local communities are experiencing new job creation and stimulated economic activity; and, families report positive diet changes and increased student participation in meals at home. We believe these benefits should be available to all children, all family farmers, all communities, and all families across the country. The vision of a nation in which farm to school programs are an essential component of strong and just local and regional food systems, ensuring the health of all school children, farms, environment, economy, and communities is what continues to drive our work forward.

    Help us keep the momentum going by joining our network and stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities, and more. Together, we can continue turning everyday small actions into big change.

    Anupama Joshi is the executive director & co-founder of the National Farm to School Network. Anupama co-founded the organization in 2007, to serve as an information, advocacy, and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education sites. She is co-author of Food Justice (MIT Press, 2010), steering committee member of the North Carolina Farm to School Coalition, an advisory board member for Inside School Food on Heritage Radio Network, and has served on the board of directors for FoodCorps and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. She loves to travel and cook, especially with her son. 

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