Every four or five years in the U.S, an opportunity arises for all concerned with the health of our nation’s children to evaluate, defend, and improve federal Child Nutrition Programs. These programs were born in the post-World War II era with the goal of improving national security through improving the nutritional status of future soldiers. They were expanded in the 1960s and 1970s as part of civil rights struggles to reduce hunger and poverty. Now, in 2009, with our nation’s health security and survival of family farming at risk, it is the perfect opportunity to revamp Child Nutrition programs to enable more schools—and more children—to benefit from the healthy meals and educational opportunities that farm to school programs can provide. The current Child Nutrition Act expired in September 2009 and received an extension until October 2010, thus, we are in the heat of the child nutrition policy battle at this very moment. School meals are a vital part of our responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations. Improving the quality of school meals, and making them accessible to all children, is essential to our nation’s future. More than 30 million children eat school food five days a week, 180 days a year. Over the past 60+ years, school meals have helped our nation make impressive strides toward improving childhood nutrition and reducing childhood hunger. Yet in recent years, school meals are confronting new challenges. School food services are fighting an uphill battle to provide kids with healthy food. Soaring food and energy costs, the lure of fast food outside the school campus, budgetary pressures caused by tight state budgets and diminished tax revenues all stand in the way of food services being able to provide healthy and delicious meals to schoolchildren. School meals are an important way to turn around our nation’s burgeoning obesity epidemic.
For the Children: Childhood obesity is a critical public health problem in the United States. One-third of U.S. children are obese or overweight. Over the past three decades, obesity rates have quadrupled in 6-11 year olds and tripled in 12-19 year olds.
Obese children are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood lipids. It is now predicted that 1 out of 3 children will develop diabetes in their lifetime, make that one in two if the child is Hispanic or African American. Diabetes cost $218 Billion in 2007 in U.S. We can prevent Type II Diabetes. For example, in American Indian youth, 86% of the diagnosed diabetes is now Type 2, which used to be almost nonexistent in children.. Only 2% of children meet the Food Guide Pyramid serving recommendations. Regular access to healthy food has been proven to be one of the strongest predictors of improved school performance.
For the Farmers: The number of U.S. farms has plunged from 3.7 million in 1959 to just 1.9 million today. There are more prisoners than farmers in the U.S. The farmer’s share of every food dollar has dropped to 19 cents from 41 cents in 1950. As a result, family farmers have a hard time just breaking even. Three hundred thirty farm operators leave the farm every week, and the average age of farmers nationally is 57 years.
The Farm to School program teaches students about the path from farm to fork, and instills healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime by introducing children to juicy, local apples and freshly harvested, crunchy carrots. At the same time, use of local produce in school meals and educational activities provides a new direct market for family farmers in the area and mitigates environmental impacts of transporting food long distances. If school lunch can taste great, and support the local community, it is a win-win for everyone.
Jr. Iron Chef, Cooking Up Change, etc.
Activities to involve parents and community members – parents invited to a meal cooked by students
HEALTH —KIDS WIN The choice of healthier options in the cafeteria through farm to school meals results in consumption of more fruits and vegetables at school and at home. For example, studies in Portland, OR, and Riverside, CA, have found that students eating a farm-fresh salad bar consume roughly one to one and a half additional serving of fruits and vegetables per day. Farm to school programs have increased the willingness of students to try out new foods and healthier options. In one school in Ventura, CA, on days in which there was a choice between a farmers’ market salad bar and a hot lunch, students and adults chose the salad bar by a 14 to 1 ratio.
AGRICULTURE —FARMERS WIN In March 2005 the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) in Riverside, California launched its Farm to School Salad Bar Program which now operates in 22 schools. An unexpected result of the program at Jefferson has been a nearly 9% increase in overall school meal participation, including exponential growth in the number of teacher meals served. Rodney Taylor, the Child Nutrition Director, spends about $250,000 per year in food purchases from local farms. Worcester Public Schools have seen a fifteen percent increase in school lunch purchases since the district began buying locally through the Massachusetts Farm to School Program. But these benefits are not limited to the schools. The sixty farms providing products to local schools in Massachusetts are generating more than $700,000 in additional revenue each year . One of the pioneers of the farm to school approach, the New North Florida Cooperative Association, Inc. has been working with school districts since 1995 to provide fresh produce for school meals. This group of innovative African-American farmers—60 to100 farmers based in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas—has served collard greens and other vegetables to more than a million students in 72 school districts.
ECONOMICS —COMMUNITIES WIN An Oregon pilot &quot;Farms to Schools&quot; program in Portland and Gervais school districts that provided an additional seven cents per meal for schools to purchase local agricultural products has proved successful and demonstrated potential for not only providing healthier food to students but also for stimulating Oregon's economy. A preliminary analysis by Ecotrust, a Portland-based organization promoting use of local products in public schools, indicated that the $66,000 provided to the schools resulted in $225,000 in local purchases and that for every dollar the schools spent, an additional 87 cents was spent in Oregon. Chicago Public Schools are working with farmers and processors located within 150 miles of the city, including in Michigan, to serve fresh local fruit and vegetables to more than 300,000 students throughout the year. Chicago has found a cost-effective way to make fresh local produce including apples, corn, peas, carrots, and green beans, frozen within 48 hours of harvest, accessible and available to students year round.
who was digging potatoes at a Farm to School harvest.
The National Farm to School Network sprouted from this desire to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms, and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity. Eight regional lead agencies and national staff provide free training and technical assistance, information services, networking, and support for policy, media and marketing activities.
Started in 2000, one school- brought together three non-profits that work with different populations A community-based approach to school food systems change through 3 C’s:
Fruit and Vegetable consumption increased 30%, participation 16% To protect farmland, improve kid’s health, and reduce energy and waste, all by promoting local foods
The National School Lunch Program is the nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program with over 214 billion lunches served since it’s inception in 1946. In 2007, it operated in over 101,000 public and non-profit private schools and provided over 30.5 million low-cost or free lunches to children on a typical school day at a Federal cost of 8.7 billion for the year. The Food and Nutrition Service administers the program at the Federal level and at the State level, State education agencies operate the program through agreements with School Food Authorities. For a quick 101 on how the NSLP works: schools get cash subsidies and donated commodities from the USDA for each meal they serve. Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free meals, that is $27,560 for a family of four. Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-priced meals, which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. In addition to the cash reimbursements, schools receive commodity foods, called “entitlement” foods, at the value of $0.20.75 cents for each meal served in 08-09. The lunches must meet Federal requirements, and they must offer free or reduced price lunches to eligible children. The question we have the opportunity to answer during the reauthorization process is “Does the NSLP achieve the original purpose of the program, which is “to promote the health and well-being of the Nation’s children”
We are making a difference one classroom, cafeteria and community at a time, because all children deserve healthy food. Farm to School programs are a model for improving the school food environment by providing farm fresh and healthy foods, as well as providing alternative marketing avenues for small farmers, and tying in educational opportunities that touch upon nutrition and health, food systems, agriculture and the environment.
National Farm to School Network June 9, 2010 Transform the Tray
Health: Kids Win The choice of healthier options in the cafeteria through farm to school meals results in consumption of more fruits and vegetables with an average increase of one serving per day, including at home.
Agriculture: Farmers Win Farm to School programs can open up the expansive school food market, estimated at more than $12 billion a year, to socially disadvantaged farmers.
Economy: Communities Win For every dollar spent on local foods in schools, one to three dollars circulate in the local economy. "If Michigan residents ate the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables and bought them from local, seasonal sources, it could add nearly 2,000 jobs and $200 million to the state's economy." Mike Hamm Michigan State University
“ For the six or eight weeks I get tomatoes, I get them for the same price, which helps stabilize my budget. For us, it’s a win-win situation. We get to support the farmers in our local area. We’re someone they can depend on. In turn our kids are saying, “ We really like this .” Mary Ann Lopez, South Windsor’s School Nutrition Specialist and Food Service Director
- salad bars -hot entrees / other meal items -snack in classroom -taste tests -fundraisers
Educational Activities: - chef/farmer in class, cooking demos -greenhouses, waste management, recycling, and -composting -farm tours -harvest of the month -CSA in the classroom -School gardens
Implementing Farm to School
Student: Why don’t we get fresh lettuce and local watermelon at school lunch ? Parent Food Service Director Principal National Food Distributor School Board Food Processor Teacher Nutritionist Contracted Food Service Provider
- Contact food service director and school administration
- Identify funding sources
- Market the program
“ Dear Shcool Board, Well I herd that we only get crunch lunch on 2 days of the week. How do you expect us to stay helthey? How do you expect us to live with the meatlof? Well, I hope you do sumthing .” Student at Davis Joint Unified School District (CA) to the School Board supporting the Davis Farm to School Salad Bar Program