The Farm to School Program was mandated through legislation in 2007 with the purpose of linking schools with Iowa farmers; providing schools with fresh minimally processed Iowa-grown food for inclusion in school meals and snacks; and encouraging children to develop healthy eating habits and provide them with hands-on learning activities. Legislation named the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to oversee this program in partnership with the Iowa Department of Education. In addition, a seven-member advisory council was established to offer guidance.
The following mission statement was created to summarize our program goals: To encourage and promote the purchase of locally produced food in our schools, strengthen the farm economy, and offer educational opportunities to improve child nutrition and health.
Education and awareness are the focus behind all farm to school initiatives. Many students may not get the opportunity at home to try different kinds of fresh locally grown produce. Without this opportunity, they are not likely to seek it as adults. Giving them the opportunity to learn where their food comes from and the education that supports making healthier food choices will hopefully resonate with them well into the future. By giving schools the opportunity to work with local growers, they have the chance to work through procurement, delivery and processing. Every survey has shown that if funding allowed, schools that work with local growers would like to buy from them again and they would like to purchase additional items.
To fulfill the goals and mission statement of this program, we have created different initiatives targeting different sectors, all critical to the sustainability of the Farm to School Program. Below is a list of the established farm to school initiatives:
- Chapter Initiative – school focused; up to $4,000; requires a contract; create your own plan
- A is for Apple – classroom teachers; different offerings every fall; allows funds for apples and classroom supplies
- Wrap Your Own—Iowa grown – offered different times of year (spring/fall); targets food service; offers money for fresh fruits and veggies to be used in a wrap.
- National Farm to School Month – for chapters only; offers money to procure locally-grown fruits/vegetables
- A Garden Is the Way to Grow – offered in spring; gives schools a chance to get funds to establish gardens along with great garden and/or classroom supplies
- FFA Growing Together – offered in February/March; provides educational tools; incorporates garden fruits/vegetables into school meals
In addition to the work being done by the Iowa Department of Land Stewardship (IDALS), the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Local Foods Program Team is excited to be the new Core Partner for the state.