It's Farm to School Month!

Using foods from local farms in school lunch programs seems basic to me for a variety of reasons:  1) local food is close and therefore easier to transport to schools, 2) food that doesn’t have to travel as far is fresher than food grown farther away, and 3) it has to be cheaper!

With less distance to travel, less hands in the process, and less processing in general – eating local food makes sense. In reality, farm-to-school may not be as easy as it sounds, but its value to students and their health makes it worth all the hard work.

We have become so distant from our food that the average American could not identify one local ingredient of their lunch other than the grocery store or restaurant they purchased it from. It’s the same story in schools. Lunch trays of food can often barely be defined, left alone sourced.

Day 1 of Mrs. Q’s “Fed Up With School Lunch” School Food Blogging Series

Learning to utilize local foods is an important lesson to learn and one that many schools across the nation have accomplished for some time or are adapting for the first time in celebration of Farm to School month. Purchasing from farms may seem like an all around good thing, but it can be difficult for school food service departments to incorporate into their menu planning. Many food service professionals have misconceptions that food purchased locally will not be as clean and safe as foods purchased from big food suppliers, that it will be too expensive for their budgets, and that farms cannot provide food for the scale of schools. And while some of these thoughts can be hurdles to purchasing locally, the benefits outweigh the struggles.

Cutting local apples for the Boulder Valley School District

When students are exposed to local foods they discover the true taste of the product.  Foods that have traveled far and wide do not have the same flavor as those consumed soon after maturing in their original state, like on a tree or in the ground. When children get to experience the true flavor of these foods that are more attracted to them and are more likely to return to them.

Enjoying a delicious local carrot

There is also the novelty of enjoying foods that come from where you’re from. Younger children are especially impressed to know that they live where their food does (I spend time in the Boulder Valley School District and love saying to kindergarteners “Do you know where this pear came from? I’ll give you a hint, it’s where you live…” They always respond “Colorado!?” enthusiastically! Try it sometime – it’s an exciting activity).

With growing concerns for the state of health and especially diet and obesity related illness, making connections with food is critical. Thinking, talking, and eating food together are all important steps in helping to prevent our youngest generations from falling into the same bad habits that we as adults face daily.

That’s why we are so excited that it is Farm to School Month! National Farm to School has put together a fabulous website full of activities, ideas, and products to get your students excited about Farm to School Month.  You can check it all out here: http://www.farmtoschoolmonth.org/

The Lunch Box has a permanent collection of resources dedicated to Farm to School which you can find here: http://www.thelunchbox.org/resources/farm-to-school

Celebrating Farm to School Month is your chance to feature local foods on your school’s menu, talk about local foods with your students, and make the Farm to School ideas your own. And as always – be sure to tell us about it! You can comment below on this post (just make sure you are signed in! It’s very easy to create a Lunch Box user id: http://www.thelunchbox.org/account), in the Lunch Room http://www.thelunchbox.org/content/lunchroom/farm-school-month, or on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Lunch-Box/117329027703! We look forward to hearing about the fun stuff YOU are doing to recognize local farms and educate your students on the goodness that is local.

By: Sunny Young - Lunch Box Blogger