How to Start a Farm to School Program
- Choose What The Program Looks Like. According to FarmToSchool.org, there are usually three types of farm-to-school programs. And your child’s school might incorporate one or all of them.
A) Local food is purchased and brought to the school for meals or snacks — this enriches the local economy, connects urban and suburban areas with local farms, and changes the types of foods served from processed to fresh.
B) Education on agriculture or farming for the children as part of the curriculum — the school garden experience, farm field trips, and educational opportunities about growing food help children prepare for now and the future. It may also encourage some students to consider farming as a career.
C) Hands-on school garden — this helps children to be in touch with soil, how food is grown, how important are pollinators, how to be responsible and a good steward of the planet, and provides satisfaction in reaping a harvest after a period of waiting
- Utilize Your School’s Parent Organization. Because schools respond well to a larger influence of the community or parental concerns and interests, it is more possible to influence your child’s school and other necessary administrative offices when you utilize your parent organization. There is strength and wisdom in numbers when more stakeholders are involved.
- Make a Simple Goal to Start. Here are some beginning goals from FarmToSchool.org —
• Identify menu items that you would like to transition to local products.
• Find a farmer or distributor to connect you to local items.
• Plan a local meal event.
• Determine training needs to assist food service staff with incorporating farm fresh items in meals.
• Bring a school garden planning team together.
• Identify curricular opportunities to connect to a school garden.
• Bring a chef into the classroom.
• Plan a farm field trip or host a tasting event featuring local produce.
- Do the Research. With the blessing of your parent-school organization, work together with like-minded parents to create a goal, research information, and develop how-to’s. And while your local area might have specific interests and needs, you are likely to find others in some area of the world who have already done something similar. Why reinvent the wheel? Make it easier on you and what you have to present to decision makers by learning how others have done it. Excellent starting resources include the National Farm to School Network, your school or district nutrition department or association, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (here’s a link to the USDA’s Farm to School grant program), California Farm to School Network (many states have their own version of California’s network with their own website), and Growing-Minds.org.