Farm to school focused programming is on the rise (and has been for some time now). Generally defined as providing “local, nutritionally valuable foods in school cafeterias or classrooms” by Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Science Center, the farm to school movement’s major trends focus in improving school nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting small to medium-sized farmers.
National policies and reliable programming play an integral part in sustained benefits of farm to school activities, according Harvard’s study. A major organization developing reliable and accessible farm to school programming is Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s own Growing Minds, one of the first farm to school programs in the country. Through an extensive collection of online lesson plans and educational resources, lending library, newsletters, and trainings for educators, Growing Minds sets the stage for successful farm to school programming currently tackling the increasing obesity epidemic.
According to a 2010 study, “U.S. childhood obesity has tripled since 1980, with 9.5 percent of infants and toddlers and 16.9 percent of children ages 2 to 19 considered obese” (Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, Lamb, & Flegal, 2010). In attempts to combat changing food consumption habits from fast food to fresh foods, USDA data demonstrates that farm to school programs have been known to impact formative decision making habits including improved acceptance of healthier school meals, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, and overall increased understanding of nutritional information. Through farm to school programs such as ASAP’s Growing Minds, the importance of nutritious and local foods can be an effective and necessary form of preventative healthcare in today’s climate of pervasive chronic illnesses.
Emily Jackson, founder of Growing Minds, will lead a field trip session to Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s school garden.