Farm to School Programs Grow Interest in Local Food and Healthy Eating
An increasing number of U.S. school districts are participating in Farm to School programs, reflecting the growing popularity of local foods.
Farm to School participants implement healthy, nutritious school meals incorporating local food products and school gardens as well as lessons in health, nutrition, food and agriculture. Activities can include school gardens, student field trips to farms, farmer visits to schools, farm to school concepts integrated into school curriculum and cafeteria food coaches encouraging kids to eat healthy and local foods.
The program began in the late 1990s with a few pilot projects in two states. The National Farm to School Network reported recently that 3,812 school districts serving nearly 21 million students in all 50 states had Farm to School programs, compared to 400 school districts in 22 states just nine years ago.
The numbers are based on a recent census of Farm to School activities by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), its first ever. The USDA has a searchable database where you can find programs in your state or search by school district.
The strongest showing of school district participation in Farm to School activities was found on the east coast—in particular, the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Nine states—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina and Hawaii—reported having more than 75 percent of school district respondents engaged in Farm to School activities. Twenty-two states, as well as the District of Columbia, reported having more than 50 percent of its school districts participating in Farm to School activities.
As a result of an National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition (NSAC) campaign, the USDA received $40 million in mandatory funding ($5 million a year for eight years) through the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 to provide grants to help schools develop or improve existing Farm to School activities. In addition to providing grants, the USDA Farm to School program also supports participating school districts with research, training and technical assistance.
The increase in Farm to School programs has multiple benefits, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a recent press release. "We know that when students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. We also know that when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits—including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers," he said.
School district investment in local food products during the 2011-2012 school year was about $354.6 million out of the estimated $2.5 billion that was spent on school food.
"Studies show that the economic multiplier effect of buying from local businesses can be between two and three times higher than from non-local businesses," said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
The increased availability of local and healthy foods and the educational experiences offered by Farm to School programs can have lasting impacts on children’s health—improving eating habits and leading to “positive steps forward in the fight against childhood obesity,” program leaders said.
As the House and Senate farm bill conferees finalize a new five-year farm bill, two farm to school issues remain under discussion. The House farm bill contains two farm to school pilot programs—one for the USDA Foods program and one for the Department of Defense “Fresh” program. Both would promote experimentation and evaluation of innovative approaches to local food procurement for school meals.
NSAC strongly supports both sets of pilot projects and is encouraging the farm bill conference to adopt both of those House-passed provisions in the final bill.
By Grayson Jaggers
The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.
- 15 Indigenous Crops to Boost Your Immune System and Celebrate ... ›
- 15 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System Right Now - EcoWatch ›
- Should I Exercise During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Experts ... ›
- The Immune System's Fight Against the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.
- FDA Approves First In-Home Test for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- When Should You Get a COVID-19 or Antibody Test? - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial Into Agency Reports ... ›
- Climate Denier Is Named to Leadership Role at NOAA - EcoWatch ›
New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.
Did you know that nearly 30% of adults do, or will, suffer from a sleep condition at some point in their life? Anyone who has experienced disruptions in their sleep is familiar with the havoc that it can wreak on your body and mind. Lack of sleep, for one, can lead to anxiety and lethargy in the short-term. In the long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, there are proven natural supplements that can reduce insomnia and improve quality sleep for the better. CBD oil, in particular, has been scientifically proven to promote relaxing and fulfilling sleep. Best of all, CBD is non-addictive, widely available, and affordable for just about everyone to enjoy. For these very reasons, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the best CBD oil for sleep. Our goal is to provide objective, transparent information about CBD products so you are an informed buyer.