Recognizing the importance of adapting and innovating in this challenging time, we're highlighting five new models that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote and support farm to school, farm to early care and education (ECE), and farm to food bank. Read on for  insights, lessons learned, and ideas for new partnership and collaboration that can keep farm to school moving during a time when everything feels like it's changing.

Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center

Story submitted by: Stacie McQuagge, Farm to ECE Educator at Little Ones Learning Center located in Forest Park, Georgia.

Little Ones Learning Center’s Executive Director is Wande Okunoren-Meadows who is serving her first year on the National Farm to School Network Advisory Board.

Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia is working hard to adapt their programs and services to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. To continue to provide fresh, local foods to children the Center’s chef is onsite preparing meals using fresh ingredients sourced locally, including from the center’s own garden. When children aren’t on site, the Center features Tasty Tuesdays via Zoom with the Garden Educator. The ingredients are sent home with families the week before so that the participating children can sample the foods at home during the Zoom call. Some of the foods sampled have been berry & yogurt parfaits, blueberry bark, Texas Caviar, and blueberry juice. In addition to Tuesday taste tests, the Center hosts Funtastic Fridays where the Wellness Educator, Stacie McQuagge, hosts a weekly activity for students based on the Harvest of the Month.

Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center

To extend the Center’s farm to ECE educational program for children at home, Little Ones Learning Center is partnering with the Small Bites Adventure Club for a pilot program which will involve distributing Taste Test kits to the preschool age children who are at home and cannot visit the Center.

Photo courtesy of Little Ones Learning Center

For the families at the Center, as well as families with young children in the community, Little Ones has been distributing farm fresh produce through the Hand, Heart + Soul Project's Farmers to Families Food Box. This program involves partnership with farmers, ranchers, specialty crop producers, food processors and distributors, and non-profit organizations to ensure that all Americans have access to the fresh and wholesome food they need during the COVID-19 national emergency. Through this partnership, Little Ones is providing families in the community farm fresh produce every Thursday in July, for 6 weeks. They anticipate distributing about 300 boxes per week.

To hear more about the experience of Little Ones Learning Center staff amidst the COVID-19 crisis and how we can all learn and grow from the lessons learned during the pandemic, check out NFSN’s Advisory Board Perspectives interview series with Wande Okunoren-Meadows and the Little Ones Learning Center team.