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Celebrating National Farm to School Month

By: Sonia Fernandez-Arana, MA

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020
  • 3 Minute Read   

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October is National Farm to School Month, a campaign dedicated to connecting children and communities to nutritious local foods while supporting farmers, agriculture and the economy. This year marks the 10th anniversary of National Farm to School Month, first enacted by Congress in 2010 to recognize food systems and honor farmers and those that contribute to school meal programs.

Farm to School in California

  • In California, 55% of school districts—a total of 373 districts—participate in farm to school activities.
  • Local products account for 15% of school district meal budgets, a $167,644,000 investment in local food in California.
  • School districts serve local foods 87% of the time during lunch and 69% at breakfast. 

These programs provide opportunities to foster healthy eating habits by bringing locally sourced and grown foods to school cafeterias while incorporating nutrition education and modeling healthy food choices and balanced meals. Learning laboratories like school gardens and agricultural field trips pair with nutrition education to teach students the importance of good nutrition and the journey of food, including the processes involved in farm-grown foods becoming part of a nutritious school breakfast or lunch. 

School meals are critical to addressing student health and well-being. Balanced nutrition throughout the day contributes to student success in and out of the classroom. Research demonstrates that school meal programs play an important role in supporting obesity prevention, overall student health and academic achievement by improving children’s diets and combatting hunger.

For over a century, Dairy Council of California has been leading farm to school efforts through the support of California dairy farmers and processors under the authority of the California Department of Food and Agriculture by bringing the original Farm to School program, Mobile Dairy Classroom, to schools across California. Mobile Dairy Classroom is an assembly that brings the farm experience to students, teaching them how milk and dairy foods get from the farm to the table and how they contribute to a healthy eating pattern. Teaching nutrition through farm to school programs engages students, celebrates cultural and ethnic heritages and explores food systems while emphasizing how nutrient-rich foods contribute to lifelong health.

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Take Action

Celebrating National Farm to School Month may be different for the school community this year due to distance learning, but schools, teachers, students and families can take part in the movement in the following ways:

  • Explore the Farm to You nutrition education lessons to teach farm-to-table processes and farming practices. Lesson activities provide cafeteria connections to expand students’ food literacy. 
  • Host a group viewing and register for the Mobile Dairy Classroom at no cost. 
  • Try this DIY gardening activity using recycled milk cartons. 
  • Discover and share Farm to You Ideas + Exhibits with families designed to promote agricultural literacy. 
  • Spread the word. On social media, share what you are doing for National Farm to School Month by using the hashtags #F2S and #farmtoschool—or use #MobileDairy for a shout-out on the virtual dairy field trip.

For additional ways to celebrate National Farm to School Month, visit the National Farm to School Network. 

References

Benefits of School Meals. School Nutrition Association website. https://schoolnutrition.org/AboutSchoolMeals/SchoolMealTrendsStats/#8 . Accessed October 16, 2020. 

California districts. The Farm to School Census, US Department of Agriculture website. https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district/california. Accessed October 16, 2020.  

National Farm to School Month. National Farm to School Network website. http://www.farmtoschool.org/our-work/farm-to-school-month. Accessed October 16, 2020. 

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Sonia Fernandez-Arana, MA

Sonia Fernandez-Arana, MA

Sonia is the Community Nutrition Adviser for Sacramento and the greater Sacramento region.

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