North Dakota Farm to School Project
Fact: One of every three U.S. children are obese or overweight.
Fact: The typical food item in the U.S. Travels 1,500 to 2,400 miles from farm to plate.
Fact: Less than 1 in 10 North Dakota youth, grades 9-12, eat the recommended 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables a day.
These are some of the statistics that I heard at the Dakota Grown Local Foods Conference last weekend.
I find it shocking that we live in a state so rich in agriculture and yet we feed our children so poorly.
I asked this question on my Facebook fan page and on Twitter: “What keeps you from buying more fresh and local foods for your family?” I got some very clear answers. The biggest hurdles are cost and convenience. We are busy, and money is tight.
And this, I think, is the very reason that our schools do not serve more fresh local foods. I have children in three different schools in our city, and I can tell you that the meals that are served are improving.
Dakotatween and Dakotateen load up on fresh fruits and vegetables from a salad bar daily. The Dakotalittles do not have a salad bar option at their elementary school, but they are served a variety of fruits and vegetables each and every day. The entrees served have finally gotten away from breaded chicken nuggets every few days and our children are challenged to try a variety of foods.
This is all progress. But I know that we can do better.
According to National Farm to School:
- The choice of healthier options in the cafeteria through Farm to School meals results in consumption of more fruits and vegetables with an average increase of one serving per day, including at home.
- Schools report a 3 to 16 percent increase in school meal participation when farm fresh food is served through farm to school programs.
- And, for every $1 spent on local foods in schools, $1-$3 circulate in the local economy.
The major aims of the Farm to School approach are healthy children, healthy farms and healthy communities. To me, it sounds like everybody wins.
There are no simple solutions though. Schools are not automatically going to search out farms to partner with and not all parents are able to spend the time and energy to determine what exactly goes into a school lunch.
I encourage you to get involved in the Farm to School project at a local level if you are able. There are Farm to School Programs, at varying levels of activity, in all fifty states. Parents can help Farm to School succeed by promoting programs, organizing field trips and volunteering in classrooms.
Do you want more information on the North Dakota Farm to School program? Contact Sue Balcom at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you need to find more information for Farm to School program in your state? Check out http://www.farmtoschool.org
Chime in! Do your kids eat school lunches? Is there an active Farm to School Program in your community? Have you been involved in it? I’d love to hear about your experiences!