In case you hadn’t heard: besides getting healthy local food on your child’s school lunch plate, the farm-to-school movement is now reaching cafeterias of all kinds! Colleges, pre-schools, prisons, hospitals—food activists around the country are working with local growers to connect the dots in our food economy.
Elias Crim, NWI Food Council board member, had the opportunity to attend this excellent biennial event, hosted by the National Farm to School Network. It brought together a diverse group of food service professionals, farmers, educators, students, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals and more for three days of learning, networking and movement building. Interestingly, the mood was more like that of a political movement than a professional conference!
Keynote speakers included Rodney K. Taylor (a pioneer for establishing the “Farmers’ Market Salad Bars” in California schools—back in 1997!) and Haile Thomas (17-year old speaker, health activist, and Food Network chef).
The many workshops covered topics such as:
Integrating Classrooms, Gardens and Cafeterias
Equity and Access in the School Garden Movement
Farm (Bill) to Cafeteria: Advocating for Change
Racial Equity in Farm to School
Evaluating Farm to School Activities
New England Farm and Sea to Campus
Traditional Agriculture in Native Communities
From our NWI area, Josh Craig, media specialist (and F2S activist) at Munster High School also attended. We hope to work with his school—which already has a F2S program underway--in our future NWIFC activities in this area.
The overall impact of these F2C programs is to support local agriculture, address inequities in the food system and foster a culture of food literacy in the community.
Nationally, according to the Farm to School Network, some 42,587 schools (about 42% of all U.S. public schools) now have F2S programs, with 23.6 million students engaged. These schools in 46 states are now spending $789 million on local food.
The latest Indiana Department of Education data indicate that 31% of our state’s schools have a farm-to-school program of some kind in place (many states are now well over 50%), with local food representing an average of 18% of the school lunch budget, and 29% of all Indiana schools now offering a school garden program. Lots more work to be done!
Written by Elias Crim