By Kevin Davidson, Farm to Early Care and Education Coordinator

You may know that Farm to ECE is our newest program at the Rural Health Network, but you might not be aware that it’s still a relatively new initiative nationwide. Due to budget restrictions, staffing constraints, and logistical challenges, Farm to ECE has yet to reach the same widespread adoption as K-12 Farm to School programs.

Fortunately, the early care sector is full of dedicated community members committed to providing fresh, local foods to our youngest learners. We’ve been collaborating with colleagues from the New York State Department of Health, the Head Start Collaboration Project, the Early Childhood Advisory Council, New York Association for the Education of Young Children, Nemours Children’s Health, Farm to Institution New York State, and Hunger Solutions NY to establish the NYS Farm to ECE Network!

Our partnership with diverse stakeholders creates a network to share knowledge, best practices, resources, and enables us to grow each of our programs together. Integrating Farm to Early Care and Education and farm-to-institution initiatives allows us to capitalize on existing communication structures, ensuring our programming is accessible to providers, children, and families. Sharing learnings establishes diverse models and techniques that are adaptable to unique classrooms and learners, supporting healthy eating habits across programs.

As we continue to expand, our goal is for Farm to ECE to become as established in early care settings as Farm to School is in K-12 school districts. We’re excited to share updates with you as we continue to pilot this program!