October brings so much fall joy- cooler temperatures, pumpkin flavored everything, beautiful foliage, and my absolute favorite- National Farm to School Month! Farm to School Month was designated in 2010 by Congress and occurs in October which is the perfect month to highlight local and seasonal foods. In addition to Farm to School Month, many states have passed resolutions creating a Farm to School week for the state as well! Of all the school nutrition focused months or weeks, Farm to School is my favorite because it brings together local producers and connects them with schools to provide local, nutritious foods to students. To truly celebrate Farm to School month I am rounding up six of my favorite Farm to School activities here on the blog.
1. Plan a “crunch” event! A crunch event is typically statewide and occurs on a certain day and time to increase the awareness of farm to school programs. For example, in Virginia the “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” will be held during Farm to School week on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 10:00 AM when children across Virginia will simultaneously take a bite out of a local, Virginia apple. Visit the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services site to learn more about Virginia’s Farm to School Program and their “crunch” event.
2. Connect with farmers! It’s great to serve local food but it’s even better to connect students with the farmer who grew their food! Have a farmer visit the school, bring some of their products, and talk to individual classrooms or the entire school through an assembly about the agricultural products they produce. You could even coordinate a tour to the farm so that the students can see the farm itself! Need to locate farmers in your areas? Check with your state’s Department of Agriculture. In South Carolina, they have a fantastic Certified South Carolina program that lists out all members (farmers) of that program.
3. Taste test local products! If you are unable to incorporate large quantities of local products into the cafeteria, taste tests are a great way for each child to get to try a local product. This is also a great way to try out new items prior to putting them on a permanent menu. This could be done at breakfast, lunch, or throughout the day. Be sure to highlight the farm the items came from.
4. Pop up farmers market! Plan a farmers market at school for a weekend or after school on a weekday. This allows children and families to connect with local farmers in their area. You could also have your local extension office come and set up cooking demonstrations with the foods that are being sold.
5. Utilize the school garden! Incorporate items grown in the school garden in the breakfast or lunch menus or use the items for taste tests. Encourage teachers to use the school garden as an outdoor classroom and provide farm to school lessons for them. The school garden can be used to teach reading, science, math, social studies, and so much more.
6. Celebrate a Farm to School week in your state! South Carolina is celebrating Farm to School week from October 21-25th. During the week, schools are encouraged to host taste tests to highlight South Carolina grown produce and share the pictures on social media using the hashtag #CertifiedSCPlate. Schools can share their photos to win prizes. What I love about this idea is that it spans an entire week, it utilizes taste tests, and they are encouraging early child care centers, communities, organizations, and other businesses to participate as well, not just schools.
Still in need of ideas? Check out this fantastic National Farm to School Celebration Toolkit created by the National Farm to School network!