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National Farm to School Network

News

Locally Grown Food: A Key Ingredient in School Lunch Recipes

NFSN Staff Monday, October 09, 2017

By Dr. Lynn Harvey, RDN, LDN, FAND, SNS
School Nutrition Association President 
Chief of School Nutrition Services for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction


October is ripe with reasons to celebrate – school cafeterias are recognizing National Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week (NSLW - Oct 9-13). The overlap is especially fitting since schools are increasingly turning to Farm to School activities to help promote the healthy, local choices available on school lunch menus.
 
In my home state of North Carolina, school nutrition directors can order locally grown produce and have it delivered right to the district through our Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The department even supplies educational and promotional materials to help students learn about the healthy offerings in the cafeteria that have been grown in their communities. During the 2016-2017 school year, the program generated nearly $1.3 million in produce sales with participation by 79 school districts statewide.
 
But North Carolina’s approach is just one of a multitude of successful Farm to School models and initiatives across the country. As School Nutrition Association (SNA) president, I am inspired by my peers every day as I witness the creative strategies they employ to connect students with more fresh, local foods.
 
For example, the School District of Holmen, WI, hasn’t let a short growing season limit their Farm to School efforts. With the help of school nutrition professionals and guidance from science and math teachers and the Future Farmers of America, students raise their own chickens, grow their own crops on donated land and harvest from hydroponic greenhouses. The 2016-2017 school year marked the fourth year students in the district helped raise chickens, nurturing and caring for them from day-old chicks to mature chickens. Students enjoyed the fruits of their labor during a “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner” event, with enough baked chicken for 3,000 servings. To learn more about this project and Holmen’s crop of 2,500 asparagus, visit SNA’s Tray Talk blog

This year, as SNA members celebrate NSLW, we look forward to seeing how schools use the School Lunch: Recipes for Success marketing campaign to show off the many locally sourced ingredients in their recipes. SNA’s recently released 2017 Trends Survey revealed that 61% of responding districts have increased scratch preparation of school foods to meet sodium limits for school meals. Scratch preparation also allows schools to utilize more healthy, local foods into dishes.

Nearly 60% of districts surveyed report offering new menu items this school year that feature international flavors. Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and other ethnic recipes help schools appeal to diverse student communities - and incorporate local foods. Douglas County School District, CO, serves Salvadorian pupusas, handmade locally using all Colorado ingredients. The dish was first served as a special feature on Colorado Proud School Meal Day but was so popular with students that pupusas are now menued year-round.

I am also glad to report that nearly 70% of school districts surveyed utilize salad/produce bars or made-to-order salads to give students more choices when it comes to selecting their fruits and vegetables. We love to see schools create delicious salad creations – especially when the incorporate student grown produce, like this colorful organic Green Swiss Chard salad from Arlington, VA. 

SNA hopes schools and their partners will continue to share the good news about all the creative, positive Farm to School efforts in their communities!

School Nutrition Association is the National Farm to School Network’s 2017 National Partner of the Year. Read more about our partnership here

Photo credit for all photos: School Nutrition Association

Too small for grocery stores, but just right for schools

NFSN Staff Friday, October 06, 2017
Clearview Farm’s farm to school story

By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern
Clearview Farm has been in Rick and Diane Melone’s family for 265 years. In fact, this century farm - two times over - was the inspiration for the classic children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Situated just outside of Boston in Sterling, Mass., Clearview Farm’s 85 acres grows a diverse array of produce for diverse markets, including local schools.

The farm includes apple and peach orchards for a u-pick operation, as well as hosts school tours that bring hundreds of students at a time to the farm. Additionally, the farm grows twenty acres of pumpkins, along with diversified vegetable production for an on–site farm stand. Rick has always seen diversity as essential to the farm’s operation. When Rick and Diane moved to the farm in 1989, it was all apples, so they diversified by planting peaches. Today, they sell those apples and peaches to the Worcester Public Schools, the third largest school district in the state, by the truckload.

Clearview Farm has been engaged with farm to school for eight years, and Rick explains that selling to schools has provided his farm a valuable and necessary market. “I’m too small to work with huge markets like Whole Foods and other grocery store whole-salers," he says. "But I can bring a truck load of apples in (to schools) and they will use them that day. We also sell veggies to the school’s summer feeding program.” Prior to selling to Worcester Public Schools, Clearview Farm’s relied more heavily on selling to medium sized grocery stores, but with so many other farms selling in that same market, competition was heavy. In addition, Rick added that a few years ago his farm stopped selling at the Boston farmers markets after seeing several years of declining sales. It's schools that have become one of his most reliable and valuable customers.

Before working with schools, Clearview Farm did not have a market for selling small peaches and apples. But as it turns out, smaller sized fruit is perfect for students. “There are so many schools and kids who need lunches and also farmers who need to move product. Children deserve better (lunches)!” Rick and Diane are proud of the fresh, healthy, and local produce they are able to provide the students of Worcester. In the end farm to school is not only a win for Clearview Farms. It’s a win for students too! 

Learn more about the economic impacts of farm to school and benefits to farmers in our new “Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools” report. This new report, a collaborative project between National Farm to School Network and Colorado State University, with generous support from CoBank and AgriBank, examines the economic impact of local purchasing and provides new insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to positively impact local economies. Explore the report and register for an upcoming webinar here

The National Farm to School Network thanks CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!

STEM, DIY Projects, Conservation & History: Partnership Ideas for Farm to School Month

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 04, 2017
By Daniel W. Hatcher, MPH, Director of Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

At the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, we believe in the power of partnership with business. We are passionate about innovative solutions, like our newest one with Amazon Business, that bring bold change for children’s health.

To celebrate Farm to School Month, here are five ideas for collaborating with local businesses while linking school, afterschool and families. In honor of a new report from The Aspen Institute that underscores the importance of social and emotional learning, I have made an effort to focus on affirming activities that foster positive connections and welcoming spaces.

Build Bridges with STEM
In The Power of Partnerships with the Business Community, I emphasize that “healthy children grow up to be consumers with increased earning and buying power.” Farm to School Month is a tremendous opportunity to build bridges with local STEM-focused companies. Agriculture is uniquely situated at the intersection of STEM and wellness. If you’re hosting an event or celebration this month, invite business leaders to speak with your students and work together on fun enrichment activities like Apples Turning Brown! (page 3), that intentionally link nutrition with science. 

To help grow the STEM and wellness conversation, check out our new educational brief, STEM and Wellness: A Powerful Equation for Equity and recorded workshop during the National AfterSchool Association Virtual Convention in November.

Start Simple and Go Do-it-Yourself (DIY)
Swing by your arts and craft store and ask them to sponsor a farm-focused bulletin board to cultivate curiosity and brighten up your physical space. Spotlight a local farm and regularly feature “Foods of the Month.” October’s Food of the Month theme is Apples, Pears and Winter Squash. Why not ask a local orchard grower to serve as a guest speaker for your next family event. At your gathering, host a fresh fruit taste test.

Take a bite out of childhood hunger with 6 more apple themed ideas from a past article I wrote for School Breakfast Week. Don’t forget to provide take-home printables, like these from USDA, highlighting seasonal produce that’s budget friendly. Find out if your local art or hardware store will donate supplies year-round for creative activities.

Turn Field Trips into Long Term Relationships
A simple way to engage with local business leaders is through field trips, but don’t stop there. Whether you visit a creamery or a vegetable farm, foster an ongoing relationship by starting a pen pal project with a local farmer. After your field trip, dialogue with students and find out what their interests are. Maybe even organize a mini Youth-Hosted Forum to amplify youth voice in your community. Ask the farmer you visit to provide regular updates on crops and progress photos of animals and plants. A Farm to School Month field trip could turn into a long-term relationship with new adult allies. Imagine your next fall festival or a healthy Halloween potluck featuring local produce provided by new partners. Never stop searching for extensions and collaborators. Link field trips with literacy goals too! Why not collaborate with your library on an agriculture themed book nook?

Partner with Parks 
Farm to School Month is the perfect time to work with parks and recreation and other organizations with roots in nature. Conservation-focused community celebrations and service-learning projects are a great way to promote critical thinking and social responsibility while reinforcing healthy habits. Even simple healthy hydration activities can inspire a greater awareness of local water sources and sustainable farming practices.

Build Community History
As I explored in Creating a More Connected World Through Local Agriculture: 9 Voices, agriculture has the power to connect us and honor our collective history. Invite retired farmers to speak with students to help them understand the historic value of farming in your community. Young professionals in the farming and agriculture field can inspire career and trade exploration. Help students establish meaningful connections and build communication skills by presenting to business leaders on issues they care about. If you have a school garden, work with your local county extension agents to turn produce into recipes and partner with local restaurant owners to feature student creations. Use Farm to School Month as an opportunity to connect students with the world around them in a meaningful way.

I hope this article has given you a few new ideas for business partnerships. Which activity or idea will you try? Share your ideas with me on Twitter using @hatchdw. I’d love to add to this list and hear your success stories.

Want even more inspiration? Read how Kelliher School District started a farm to school program and made student wellness a priority.

BONUS ACTIVITY: Farm to School Month Energizer
Have you been sitting for a while? Why not take a fitness break? I adapted our Healthier Generation Task Cards (#17) into a simple activity with a farm and math twist. Ready?  Gather your coworkers and act out this math problem for a quick energizer. 15 crows were flying in the air and 7 stopped for a snack in a cornfield. How many were left flying?

Simple right?! Happy Farm to School Month.

Read more from Daniel Hatcher on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's New & Notable blog.

Photo credit for all photos: Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Ready, Set, Celebrate!

NFSN Staff Monday, October 02, 2017

It’s the time of year again! Every October, when gardens and farms are full of harvest bounty and students are sliding up to lunchroom tables, we come together with schools, farmers, communities, families and food advocates from every corner of the country to celebrate the connections happening between students and local foods. Designated by Congress in 2010, National Farm to School Month is a time to raise awareness of the importance of farm to school as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate communities about the origins of their food.

This October, we invite you to join us in taking action for farm to school. Whether you’re hosting a taste test in the cafeteria, harvesting school garden produce, making a new farm to school connection, or advocating for supportive policies like the Farm to School Act of 2017, no action is too small! 

Here are five easy action steps to get you started: 

  • Take the Pledge: Sign our Take Action Pledge and commit to taking action to advance farm to school in your community this October. Add your name to the pledge and you’ll be entered to win our Farm to School Month sweepstakes! Ten winners will receive a prize package that includes: assets from the Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden™ program, a Stand2Learn student standing desk, and a collection of seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. No action is too small – take the pledge now! 
  • See what’s happening: Explore our national calendar of Farm to School Month events and see what celebrations are taking place in your community. 
  • Read inspiring stories: Visit our blog all month long to read inspiring stories of farm to school success and innovation. Guest blog posts include the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, School Nutrition Association, USDA Office of Community Food Systems, National CACFP Sponsors Association, the NEA Foundation, Youth Empowered Solutions and more!
  • Explore resources: Check out our free resources for planning and promoting celebrations in your community, including customizable posters and bookmarks, stickers, activity suggestions and communications tools. 
  • Donate to support our work: Invest in the future of farm to school. Donate to the National Farm to School Network and help us bring farm to school to communities across the country every month! Take one small step and make a charitable donation today. Take one small step and make a charitable donation today. 
We want to know: what action steps will you take this month? Share with us by taking the pledge! Or, let us know during our #FarmtoSchool101 tweet chat on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 12-1pm ET, or anytime with the social media hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool

Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you taking small actions every day to grow healthier kids, support local agriculture and cultivate vibrant communities. YOU are part of this movement, and you can help keep it growing. 

Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors -  CoBank, Territory Foods, Captain Planet Foundation, Organic Valley, Perdue, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Stand2Learn and High Mowing Organic Seeds - as well as the Feature Partner and Outreach Partner organizations that are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion in your community.

Happy National Farm to School Month! 

Small steps, big impact

NFSN Staff Tuesday, November 01, 2016

For the past 31 days, millions of schools, farmers and communities across the country have been celebrating the movement that’s connecting kids to fresh, healthy food and supporting local economies. From Florida to Alaska and everywhere in between, people are recognizing the power of farm to school to benefit people, planet and profit. That’s what National Farm to School Month is all about! 

This year’s campaign celebrated the small steps everyone can take to get informed, get involved and take action for farm to school in their own communities and across the country. More than 600 people took the One Small Step Pledge, and shared the small steps they’d be taking in October:   

  • Our 28 elementary schools will be taste testing fresh, local produce, experiencing healthy cooking demos using farm fresh foods, and learning about their agricultural heritage - Texas
  • Continuing to plug away at networking with community partners that can bring together farmers to create a system for getting fresh produce to Early Childhood programs - North Carolina
  • Hosting our very first Farmer's Market with community farmers and produce from our very own Edible School Yard - California
  • Partnering with a local orchard to make homemade apple sauce in the classrooms and organizing a Big Apple Crunch Rally - New York
  • Buying local produce for my kids lunches and classroom snacks this month - Washington
  • We will be serving blueberry juice with blueberries grown in South Georgia - Georgia
At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing great stories of farm to school innovations, successes and impacts – like how farm to school activities are reducing school food waste, supporting family farms, and growing the next generation of food leaders

We also celebrated on Capitol Hill. Throughout the summer – and at events like the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference and Farm Aid 2016 – we collected paper plates with messages of support for farm to school and healthy school meals to share with lawmakers. On Oct. 5, we partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to deliver more than 550 paper plates to legislators who have been pushing for an increase in farm to school funding and support in the Child Nutrition Act. See a recap of the delivery day here.

And, we hosted a #FarmtoSchool101 tweet chat with Slow Food USA and Farm Credit to spread awareness and answer questions about the movement. More than 175 people joined the conversation on social media, sharing stories about the positive impact farm to school has in their communities. See highlights here.


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and farm to school champions celebrate Arkansas Farm to School Month. 

Regionally, millions of students celebrated Farm to School Month with events like the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, Midwest Grate Apple Crunch, and Southeast Crunch. In fact, there have been Farm to School Month celebrations in every state this month. Governors in Arkansas, Hawai’i, Minnesota, Nebraska and Rhode Island made proclamations declaring October Farm to School Month in their states. Oregon brought legislators to the lunchroom to see farm to school in action, Georgia got kids to dig their hands in the soil with “Leaf it to Spinach,” and Washington students sampled local food for Taste Washington Day. We could keep going! 

Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you, taking small steps every day to bring more local food sourcing and food and agriculture education to students across the nation. There are 334 days to continue taking small steps to grow and strengthen the movement before Farm to School Month 2017! Help us keep the momentum going by joining our network and stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities and more. Let's keep the small steps coming all year long! 


Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors and supporters – Aetna Foundation, Captain Planet Foundation, Farm Aid, Organic Valley, Chartwells, High Mowing Organic Seeds and Safer Brand – and the 230+ outreach partner organizations that have helped make Farm to School Month 2016 a success.  

Reducing student food waste with farm to school in Arkansas

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 27, 2016
By Melissa Terry, MPA Candidate specializing in Food Policy, University of Arkansas Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences, and Emily English, Arkansas State Lead, National Farm to School Network. Terry and English are co-Chairs of the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention’s Access to Healthy Foods Workgroup


Photos courtesy of Melissa Terry
Each state faces its own food security challenges, but Arkansas’s children find themselves particularly in the crosshairs of childhood obesity and childhood hunger statistics. In 2014, Arkansas was ranked as one of the top 5 states with the highest rates of food-insecure children, and approximately 1 in 5 children are obese. When combined, these two factors can be early indicators of long-term health risks, but also, an opportunity for community leaders to cultivate an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice. 

Washington Elementary School in Fayetteville, Ark., offers a shining example of how farm to school strategies can help cultivate healthy learning environments and positively impact the health and wellness of children. A garden-based learning program is used to engage all 325 kindergarten through 4th grade students in a variety of experiential academic lessons tied to grade-level benchmark standards – including activities inside classrooms, in the lunchroom, and in the school’s three gardens. 

Classroom lessons include interactive activities like making Rainbow Wraps with kindergarten students, pouring over the latest issue of ChopChop Magazine with 1st graders, learning about pollinators by creating Monarch butterfly nurseries in 2nd grade classrooms, facilitating Math in the Garden lessons with 3rd graders, and exploring USDA Garden Detective curriculum with 4th graders. After school programs include Washington’s robust Gardening Club, which is filled to capacity with 30 students. Additionally, each grade level participates in a farm to school field trip to a local farm.  

“Washington Elementary School’s garden-based initiatives are making a difference in our school and have enriched student learning experiences. The Fayetteville School District’s Farm to School program benefits all students regardless of the demographic background,” says Ms. Ashley McLarty, Washington Elementary Principal. 

Cafeteria lessons include a rotating “School Lunch in the Garden” initiative where one class each week visits the school garden for a lunch tray picnic. Activities also include data collection of Harvest of the Month taste test result, and participation in food waste reduction incentives. According to Washington’s Garden-Based Learning Coordinator, Melissa Terry, “The unsung hero of classrooms and learning environments is the school cafeteria. What the students learn there, whether intentional or incidental, shapes the way they perceive healthy food choices for the rest of their lives.” 

One of the school’s most innovate farm to school initiatives has been piloting a student food plate waste audit in early 2015, in partnership with the Washington County Environmental Affairs Department, the EPA, the USDA, and four other county schools. In this pilot, students engaged in a five day plate waste audit that measured plate waste by categories, including fruit/vegetables, all other food waste, milk waste, other liquid waste and unopened items. 

Results from the audit reflected an opportunity for Washington to make changes to help students reduce their food waste, including the introduction of 8 oz water cups next to the water fountain and the installation of a share table for unopened items, such as milk cartons, fruits and packaged food. Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year students reduced their milk waste by 20% and shared various unopened lunch meal items (e.g. milks, apples, oranges, etc.) as afternoon snacks with other students.   

To further its food waste reduction efforts, the school also launched an innovative “Farm to Store to School” partnership with Natural Grocers. Initiated in 2015, the store donates its surplus produce to the Washington Elementary twice a week, where it is used to make fresh, healthy snacks for students in afterschool programs. Produce picked up during holidays and during the summer break is delivered to the local Salvation Army kitchen, where meals are served twice daily and often include Washington Elementary students and their families. 

Arkansas Farm to School seeks to support schools and communities as they strive to fully engage students in their food system and cultivate emerging leaders empowered to participate in their food choices. And these efforts support the local economy, too. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, local and regional procurement practices have resulted in $1,255,960 of direct financial impact for Arkansas' food producers. Emily English, National Farm to School Network Arkansas State Lead, says, “As we support schools and communities like Washington Elementary in Fayetteville and share successes and best practices across the state, we build a network of change agents young and old – students, parents, school staff, growers and community members - united in our efforts.”

For more information about Washington Elementary School’s farm to school activities, check out this Prezi featuring different types of student engagement, and this recording of a USDA webinar featuring Washington’s school-based food recovery partnerships.  

Growing youth leaders in Philly

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 25, 2016
By Aunnalea Grove, Get HYPE Philly! Program Manager, The Food Trust



For the Get HYPE Philly! initiative, 10 nonprofit partners, led by The Food Trust, have come together to empower 1,000 youth leaders to improve the health of their schools and communities with a goal of reaching over 50,000 Philadelphia youth in 100 schools by January 2018. Through urban agriculture, physical fitness, nutrition education and work readiness, Get HYPE Philly! is helping to ensure that Philadelphia’s young people play a key role in building healthier communities and creating a healthier generation. This has created a true movement, with young people at the forefront as agents for healthy change in their communities.

Many of Get HYPE Philly!’s youth leaders are actively involved in improving access to local, fresh foods in their schools and communities. Students involved in the school wellness clubs known as  HYPE (Healthy You. Positive Energy.) have the opportunity to visit local farms, start school gardens and advocate for healthy food sales in their schools. Youth leaders also support farm to school efforts by encouraging their peers to try local foods through marketing and taste tests in their schools. As one student said, “I joined HYPE because I wanted to help my friends make healthy food choices.”  Youth leaders take lessons about healthy eating home to their families, too.  HYPE student Priscilla says she has been able to influence her family with “more water, no soda in my refrigerator, whole wheat bread. My sister is a soda lover, so at first she was upset - but now she loves water.”  After several visits to urban farms and farmers markets, Priscilla wants to continue to see change in her community: “We need at least one farmers market around my community.”



Through Get HYPE Philly! partners The Village of Arts and Humanities, Norris Square Neighborhood Project and Greener Partners, young people are learning about urban agriculture by growing their own fruits and vegetables and using them to teach peers how to cook healthy meals.  Youth leaders run neighborhood farm stands, increasing access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods in North Philadelphia.  They also donate the food they grow by running a free, CSA-style delivery program for senior community members and lead a community cooking classes at a local shelter.   
In addition to working within their own schools and neighborhoods, Get HYPE Philly! has a Youth Leadership Council made up of a cohort of students from across the city whose goal is to promote healthy living and the development of sustainably healthy communities.  These students advise on Get HYPE Philly! Collective programming, serve as youth philanthropists and advocate for policy change.  In Get HYPE Philly!’s first year, the Youth Leadership Council chose to focus on urban gardening and healthy food access, and with funding from GSK, had the opportunity to  award 18 local nonprofit organizations with a total of $51,000 in mini grants, many of which went toward supporting other youth-led urban farming programs.  

Get HYPE Philly! brings people and organizations together to reach a common goal, empowering young people to lead healthier lives.  For more information on Get HYPE Philly! or how to get involved, visit www.gethypephilly.org, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @hypephilly.  

Growing Together: Garden Brings Together Veterans and Children

NFSN Staff Monday, October 24, 2016
By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Early Care and Education Associate, National Farm to School Network


Photos courtesy of Veterans Organic Garden
The Peach Tree Head Start Garden sure didn’t seem like much to look at when veteran John Johns first laid eyes on it. The abandoned piece of land, conveniently situated between the Ukiah Veterans Administration Clinic and Peach Tree Head Start in Ukiah, Calif., was covered in years of overgrowth and unsafe for anyone, let alone children to wander through. With the commitment and diligence of Garden Manager Johns and other enthusiastic veteran gardeners of Veterans Organic Garden, and the coordination and support of the Gardens Project of North Coast Opportunities, in a relatively short time, this land had transformed into a sanctuary of healing for local veterans and an exciting place of learning and growing for the children of Peach Tree Head Start. 

The first step in the project was making the garden area safe enough for children to come into. Once this was accomplished, the planting could begin. Thanks to community donations and volunteer time, the garden soon started to fill with squash, tomato, cucumber, and pumpkin seedlings. The Head Start students were involved even from the very first stages of planting. The children started seedlings in the classrooms to plant in the garden and worked alongside veterans to plant pea seeds in the wooden barrels filled with donated soil and compost. 

Planting together was just the start of many valuable experiences in the garden, for both the children and the veterans. Throughout the growing and harvest season, the children made regular trips to the garden to see how their plants were growing and to nibble from the garden’s bounty. Johns says the peas planted in the beginning of the season were a popular treat and the children ate them up like candy.  He was also surprised to see how readily they gobbled up the spicy radishes. 

Head Start families are gaining hands on experience, too. Garden work days bring together veterans, teachers, parents, and children of all ages to pull weeds, tend plants, and take home bags of fresh produce. The impact of the garden continues into the Head Start kitchen and into the homes of the VA clinic patients. An average of 125 pounds a week of fresh produce from the garden has been served to students in meals and snacks at the Head Start and given away at the VA clinic.  

Johns sees significant benefits first hand for both veterans and children. The garden offers a place for mental and physical healing for veterans and empowers them with the opportunity to tend and manage their own plots. For Johns, the best part of the whole project is when the kids come up, hug him around the knees and thank him for gardening with them. Johns wants to engage even more veterans in this project so they can have that experience of admiration and appreciation. 

The relationships developed in the garden are meaningful and impactful for the children, too. Johns sees the children looking up to the growers and seeing them as role models, which increases their appreciation for farmers and food in general. The children get to engage in the growing experience with all their senses, from the time that they are very small, allowing them to develop a deep understanding of how food grows and where it comes from. Johns also hopes that by getting children in the garden early, they will grow up excited about growing their own food and make gardening a life long habit. 

The success of the garden is not going unnoticed in the community. After a recent newspaper article highlighted the project, several organizations reached out to offer donations, lands on which to start more community gardens, and partnership opportunities. Johns sees this positive response as testament to the importance and impact that a garden like this can have in the community. By bringing together veterans and the youngest gardeners in town, the garden is changing the community from the ground up.
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