Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Farm to School

A recent visit to the Germantown Hills Middle School Farmers Market led me to the discovery that the school is in a Farm To School Program. It's an excellent way to bring public education and local farmers together.

Every school year, schools are given USDA Foods entitlement money. They may choose to spend some of the money on local farm products. The Department of Defense (DOD) is in charge of the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program (DOD Fresh). Using high standards and a variety of foods with easy use of funds and ordering makes being involved in the program a breeze. The DOD makes this program an easy and efficient way to get local farmers involved in getting healthy food to the school and bring revenue back to the community.  

The DOD has a preapproved local vendor list called the FFavors catalog. Schools are able to browse the list and find vendors marked local to their area . They are also encouraged to talk with the vendors about what they will have available seasonally and let them know what foods they are interested in purchasing. Local foods can be purchased for cheaper amounts than other foods. This often leaves money left over to purchase cooking equipment and other kitchen items.

While at the Farmers Market I spoke with Kim Kieswetter, the Food Director for district #69, and she mentioned that the school will begin a garden in the spring. Yet another benefit of this program! The USDA has funding and grants for building school gardens. They also have available free resources for learning how to garden, as well as how to teach to garden.

This seems just too good to be true. A program that gets kids outside playing in the dirt while learning about gardening and nutrition? Then harvesting their own food, cooking and eating their fruits and veggies? My mind is blown. How more amazing could this be? I can’t wait until spring to do a follow-up story on the garden. Kudos Kim, all farmers, parents, local vendors, and GTHMS.
If you are interested in learning more about this program, go to www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool .If you have any questions email them at farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov

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