October is National Farm to School Month
Every October, thousands of schools, farmers and communities around the nation celebrate a movement that’s connecting kids to fresh, healthy food while supporting local economies. From New Mexico to Vermont, through food education, school gardens and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients, people are recognizing the power of the farm-to-school movement to benefit people, planet and profit.
The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into schools, early-care and education settings. Farm to School Month was brought to life by Congress in 2010 to raise awareness of the importance of this initiative as a means to improve children’s nutrition and educate communities about the origins of their food.
According to the USDA 2015 Farm to School Census, 34 percent of New Mexico school districts participate in farm-to-school activities. That’s 40 districts with 505 schools and 263,767 students eating local food in school meals, digging into school gardens and learning about food, agriculture and nutrition. Another 16 percent of districts report that they plan to start farm-to-school activities.
During the 2013-2014 school year, New Mexico schools purchased $801,200 worth of local products from New Mexico farmers, ranchers and other food producers. As demand for New Mexico-grown produce in schools grows, so do farmers’ incomes, along with children’s overall health and academic performance. That’s worth celebrating.
National Farm to School Month is an opportunity to plan new farm-to-school activities, organize a celebration of current efforts or initiate a new partnership.
Whatever you do this month, take a moment to appreciate where your food comes from, thank a farmer, and consider the more than 23.5 million students nationwide who are engaging with local food through taste tests, connecting with their community on farm field trips, and growing up to become a generation of informed, healthy eaters. To find resources and ideas for getting involved, visit farmtoschool.org
Anna Mullen is the National Farm to School Network’s digital media associate.