By Anna Mullen, Communications Manager
For 31 days every October, millions of students, farmers, educators, and communities across the country celebrate the movement that’s connecting kids to local and just food and supporting family farmers and local economies. Over 42,000 schools and early care and education sites across the country put farm to school into action every day, and National Farm to School Month is a time to recognize those efforts, the people who make them happen, and to energize more people in our communities to join in!
Everyone can be part of National Farm to School Month, and this year we saw lots of inspiring celebrations - from state-wide crunch events and local food days, to legislators in the lunchroom and proclamations. Here are some of the ways our farm to school friends like you celebrated this October:
Apple Crunches: Did you hear that CRUNCH? Millions of students across the country participated in state and region-wide crunch events this October. Many places crunched with locally sourced apples, including Alabama, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. The Mountain Plaines region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) held its first regional Apple Crunch Off. The Great Lakes Region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) continued its annual Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch with more than 1.8 million (wow!) crunchers. Louisiana had the Great Louisiana Satsuma Peel. And in states like California, Florida and Hawai’i, schools picked from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to crunch and munch on local food.
Proclamations: While the federal government first recognized National Farm to School Month in 2010 (House Resolution 1655), numerous state governments recognize this annual celebration with proclamations and declarations of their own. This year, governors including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made proclamations related to Farm to School Month and kids eating local food in schools.
Local Food Days & Weeks: Statewide local food days and weeks encourage schools and communities to be part of their local food systems. Here are few states that had campaigns to put local on kids plates: Iowa Local Food Day, the Mississippi Farm to School Challenge, New Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week, Pennsylvania Preferred Day, New Mexico Grown Week, Make Your Plate South Carolina Grown Week, the Texas Farm Fresh Challenge, and Virginia Farm to School Week.
Legislators in the Lunch Room: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue kicked off National Farm to School Month at Sugar Creek Elementary School in Wisconsin. VermontSen. Patrick Leahy visited St. Albans Town Education Center. NebraskaRep. Jeff Fortenberry crunched into local apples with students at Clinton Elementary School. ConnecticutRep. Joe Courtney took a tour of school gardens and cafeterias at Groton public School. CaliforniaAgriculture Secretary Karen Ross visited several farm to school sites. IdahoFirst Lady Teresa Little and Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam ate with kids in school cafeterias. And VirginiaSecretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring visited Lynchburg City Schools to see their bulk milk machines carrying single-source, local milk.
And more!Georgia schools planted, tasted, cooked with and learned about squash with the “Oh My Squash” celebration. Indiana Grown and the Indiana State Department of Health unveiled their new local food buyer's guide. Massachusetts had a farm to school awareness day and awarded its 2019 Kale Blazer Award. And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new funding to support schools purchasing locally grown food.
At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading National Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing farm to school inspiration and stories from partner organizations including Farm to Cafeteria Canada, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, CoBank, Hawthorne Gardening Company, and Farm Credit. And on social media, we celebrated by encouraging people to share their ideas and help spread awareness for the farm to school movement using #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. Over 6,500 social media posts celebrated farm to school this month, showcasing hundreds of activities and events. We were so inspired by the excitement for farm to school that we saw!
Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you who are working every day to ensure the health of our nation's children and to support local farmers in our communities. There are 334 days to continue growing and strengthening the movement before the 10th annual National Farm to School Month in October 2020! 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 – like the upcoming 10th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, April 21-23, 2020 in Albuquerque, NM. Healthy kids, thriving farms and vibrant communities are worth taking action for every day!
Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors - CoBank and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council - as well as Outreach Partner organizations that helped us spread the word about farm to school far and wide throughout October. And, thanks to YOU for being a farm to school champion in your community!