The Results Are In: Farm to School in Early Childhood Supports Healthy Kids with Bright Futures
By Lacy Stephens, Farm to Early Care and Education Associate
With 8 million children spending an average of 33 hours per week in early care and education settings, farm to school has the potential to set up a great number of young children for a lifetime of health and wellness. New survey results from the National Farm to School Network show just that: farm to school in early childhood is promoting healthy eating habits and providing high quality learning environments for thousands of children at a critical stage of development.
In 2015, the National Farm to School Network surveyed early care and education providers across the country to better understand current initiatives, motivations and challenges in applying farm to school activities in early care and education settings. Nearly 1,500 providers serving 183,369 young children in 49 states and Washington, D.C., responded and shared insight into the important work that they are doing to connect young children to healthy, local foods and food related educational opportunities.
We found that more than 50 percent of respondents were already incorporating farm to school activities into their early care and education settings and another 28 percent plan to start in the future. That means thousands of young children are benefiting from farm to school activities like learning where food comes from, planting and tending gardens, and eating locally grown food in meals and snacks.
Teachers and early care providers agree that farm to school activities help create high quality learning environments that promote life long health and wellness, which are important priorities for children, providers and parents. Respondents identified these as their top three motivations for participating in farm to school:
- Teaches children about where food comes from and how it is grown (95%)
- Improves children’s healthy (95%)
- Provides children with experiential learning (94%)
One child care provider summed it up this way: “The farm to preschool movement makes our programs better in every way.” Farm to school activities are helping early care and education providers reach their goals of setting young children up for a lifetime of health and success.
Want to learn more about the survey results and the role of farm to early care and education in supporting healthy kids and high quality educational opportunities? The National Farm to School Network has developed an infographic and fact sheet highlighting key information from the survey. A complete summary of the survey results will be available in mid-May.
Help us reach reach more young kids, families, providers and communities with the many benefits of farm to school for all ages. Share the results of the survey with 5 people you know who care about our next generation, join the National Farm to School Network and connect with farm to school and early care and education leaders in your region. Get started by clicking below!
2016 Innovation Awardees
As the backbone organization for the U.S. farm to school movement, the National Farm to School Network has the privilege to work with some of the country’s most enthusiastic, invested and creative organizations and individuals toward a future where all children, farmers and communities have the opportunity to benefit from farm to school activities. Our Core Partners are the farm to school leaders bringing these strategies into schools and communities at the state and regional level, expanding our capacity to keep this grassroots movement growing across the country.
With funding support from Newman’s Own Foundation and Farm Credit, the National Farm to School Network presented Innovation Awards in February 2016 to three new projects by our Core Partners in Georgia, the Great Lakes and the Northeast in celebration of their efforts to advance farm to school and to share their knowledge with practitioners. This year’s theme, Engaging Farmers and Producers in Farm to School, inspired projects that will use creative approaches to outreach and resource development to bring new farmers and producers into the farm to school movement.
Projects will take place throughout 2016, and each will result in the creation of shareable information resources for farmers and farm to school practitioners about innovative strategies to engage farmers that can be used across the country. From sustainable fisheries to preschool pop-up markets, the following projects will highlight creative farm to school approaches that can inspire new opportunities in your community:
Sea to School in New England
Maine Farm to School, Massachusetts Farm to School, New Hampshire Farm to School
Award: $5,000 // Estimated completion by October 2016
Three Northeast states will create a Sea to School resource guide based on New England efforts including: case studies, best practices, recipes and an educational video appropriate for elementary school classrooms about sustainable fishing and aquaculture in the Gulf of Maine. To the extent possible, farmers/fishers will be engaged in this project and sea to school work through state and regional conferences and events throughout 2016.
Growing Farm to School by Sharing Farmer Stories
University of Wisconsin, Madison - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
Award: $5,000 // Estimated completion by October 2016
The six Great Lakes states will team up to develop a series of short videos featuring conversations between regional farmers and food service directors who have good working relationships. This series of professionally filmed and edited videos will highlight a diverse collection of farmers, production methods, success stories and relationships between farmers and food service directors.
Pop-Up School Market: Engaging Farmers at Preschools
Award: $5,000 // Estimated completion by December 2016
This project will pilot 10 pop-up farmers markets at childcare facilities across Georgia as direct marketing opportunities for small/medium family farmers, while engaging parents in farm to school through incentives to purchase, cook and eat healthy farm fresh food at home. Nutrition education and cooking demonstrations will be provided at the pop-up markets, and to the extent possible, farmers will be able to accept WIC vouchers. A shareable guide to pop-up markets will be produced as part of the project.
View an overview of the 2016 and 2015 Innovation Awards here.
Help support more innovative ideas like these by making a donation to the National Farm to School Network. Your donations mean more healthy meals for students, more opportunities for farmers and more communities connecting around local food.
Help farm to school grow by making a donation today!