By Stacey Malstrom, Communications Director
National Farm to School Month has arrived! And there couldn’t be a better time to lift up the connections students are making to local food and farmers across the country. This annual celebration of food education, school gardens and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients was brought to life by Congress in 2010 in order 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 origin of their food.
Since 2010, Farm to School Month has brought together thousands of kids, teachers, parents, farmers, food enthusiasts, business owners, school lunch professionals and advocates from diverse sectors who believe in the power of farm to school to benefit people, planet and profit.
What do these people have in common? They know that farm to school works to improve child nutrition and solve many of the challenges schools face in the lunchroom, while at the same time creating economic opportunities for farmers and communities. Students who are properly introduced to new foods through farm to school are more likely to adopt long-term healthy eating habits, participate in their school’s meal plan and are less likely to waste food, which results in a better bottom line for schools and healthier kids.
This year, Farm to School Month is more than just a celebration – it is a time for action. Yesterday, Congress missed its deadline to pass a new version of the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR), the bill that funds the USDA Farm to School Program and many other important programs for kids. Now more than ever, Congress needs to hear from you about why farm to school is important to your kids, your farmers and your community to ensure that these federal programs can meet the needs of schools and farmers nationwide.
Throughout October, join us on our blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we celebrate stories of farm to school success and innovation across the country. With your help, we can elevate the conversation around farm to school and demonstrate that this is the path to a healthier next generation. Here’s how you can get involved:
1. Spread the word: Share your farm to school stories with friends and neighbors; post our Farm to School Month graphics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; use the hashtags #farmtoschool and #F2SMonth on social media; alert local media to what’s happening in your area. Farm to school has grown from a few schools in the 1990s to more than 40,000 today because of people like you educating their communities and policymakers. For more ideas on how you can raise your voice, explore our Communications Toolkit.
2. Join our Big Day of Action: Pledge to make yourself heard on Oct. 22. It’s time for Congress to finish CNR and strengthen the USDA Farm to School Program. Call your legislator, tweet a photo of your school garden or local lunch, and use the hashtag #moreF2SinCNR to show your support for the Farm to School Act of 2015. Sign on today!
3. Become a member: Join our network of 12,000+ farm to school advocates to stay up-to-date on the latest stories, best practices, learning opportunities and policy actions to continue the growth of farm to school nationwide. Already a member? Submit a farm to school story or tell us why farm to school is important to your community using our Share Form. Check back soon to learn about our Farm to School Month sweepstakes for new members and storytellers.
New to farm to school? Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 13 from 12-12:30pm CT for an introduction to the movement in our Farm to School 101 webinar. Helen Dombalis, National Farm to School Network's Director of Programs, and Andrea Northup, Farm to School Coordinator at Minneapolis Public Schools, will discuss the three core elements of farm to school - procurement, education and school gardens - and how the movement is working to connect children in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. to healthy food. You can register for the webinar here.
Whatever you do this month, take a moment to appreciate the harvest, thank a farmer, and smile about the more than 23.5 million students who are engaging with local food through taste tests and school gardens, connecting with their community and neighbors on farm field trips, and growing up to be informed eaters.
Thank you to our Farm to School Month sponsors Organic Valley, Chartwells, Mamma Chia and Stand2Learn, as well as the hundreds of Outreach Partners who are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion all year.
Happy National Farm to School Month!