school nutrition

Celebrating National Farm to School Month

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 five 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 Friday, October 5, 2018 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!  

Still in need of ideas? Check out this fantastic National Farm to School Celebration Toolkit created by the National Farm to School network!

Seven Ways Schools Can Support Health & Wellness

It’s that time of year again where we blinked and summer is officially over. School buses are out and about and the school supplies aisles at Target are picked clean. In the back to school spirit, I have put together seven ways schools can support health and wellness:

1. Active lessons. Kids need to get up and move! As adults we can’t sit at our desk for hours on end and we shouldn’t expect kids to either. There are so many ways teachers can take a non-active assignment like a worksheet and turn it into an active lesson. Instead of a worksheet to learn subtraction, why not play a game of subtraction tag?! Sound like something you want to implement? Check out this fantastic resource of active lessons from Greater Richmond Fit4Kids.

2. Healthy fundraisers.  The school bake sale is becoming a thing of the past. Schools can implement physical activity-based fundraisers such as color runs, 5ks, or fun runs. Schools can also implement healthy food fundraisers such as an annual citrus fruit sale like the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Selling items with a school logo such as t-shirts, water bottles, or even socks can also be successful!

3. Adequate time for meals. Meal times at school seem a lot more like a sprint than a marathon. Allowing children enough time to consume school meals is important in ensuring children are well nourished and ready to learn.  Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that kids who had less than 20 minutes to eat lunch, consumed less food and threw away more food than their peers who had 25 minutes or more to eat.

4. Encourage water consumption! Constipation in children is a common problem. It can lead to discomfort and even more severe complications such as fever, vomiting, abdominal swelling, and weight loss just to name a few. One of the best ways to avoid constipation is to increase the amount of liquids consumed. Dehydration can also impair focus. Ensure each child has access to water either through a water fountain or their own reusable water bottle!

5. Don’t use physical activity as a punishment.  Physical activity such as running, walking, etc. should never be used as a punishment. We want to encourage children to be active and to move their bodies so making students walk or run laps as punishment is sending the opposite message that physical activity is fun and good for us!

6. Promote Positive Body Image. We’ve all heard our colleague talk about the diet they just started or the weight they are trying to lose. Students hear and see everything! School staff can promote body positivity by not discussing weight around students and by leading by example.

7. A safe environment for all. Because of food allergies, many schools have implemented policies that do not allow outside food or drink or limit what can be brought in. Check with your school on what foods may not be allowed due to food allergies in the school. Keep in mind if a policy does exist it is in the best interest of the students and every student deserves a safe place to learn!