Farmers, kids, and communities benefit from farm to school programs. Benefits to farmers, covered in a previous post, included significant financial opportunities resulting from local procurement. The benefits to kids will be covered this week.
Farm to school is best known for offering locally procured and nourishing meals to students in the school cafeteria, but farm to school is much more than that. In addition to offering local meals, farm to school programs also aim to educate students about food, health, agriculture, gardening and nutrition through hands-on learning in the classroom and often in school gardens. These are not just lofty goals. Farm to school has been proven in multiple capacities to improve student knowledge and attitudes regarding these topics. Here is a piece by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which cites evidence to support claim that farm to school works.
The Southern Tier Farm to School program, facilitated primarily by the Food and Health Network in partnership with Broome-Tioga BOCES, is no exception. Starting in 2020, this program will offer two NY Thursdays meals per month to students in Southern Tier counties, offering a locally sourced menu in accordance with USDA school nutrition guidelines. In addition, the Rural Health Service Corps Farm to School AmeriCorps members with the Food and Health Network serve in a variety of capacities, some helping to coordinate farm to school activities in the classroom and some establishing and maintaining school gardens.
By combining nutritious, local school meals with education about all facets of food systems, farm to school programs offer nutritious meals and a multidisciplinary understanding to the students that they serve. One thing is clear based on the evidence that we have; kids win with farm to school!