Last week was an incredible week at the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, TX; we are so grateful for the opportunity to attend. This year’s theme was “Powering Up!”, and each session was infused with a palpable energy and excitement; when 1100 farm-to-cafeteria enthusiasts get excited, you can feel it!
On Wednesday we attended two incredible workshops: Synergizing Efforts to Build National Farm and Food Education Curricula and Overcoming Barriers to Serving Farm Fresh Food in Schools. Each session specifically addressed how to overcome challenges when implementing farm-to-school programming in K-12 settings, but many of the strategies are applicable regardless of the type of program you may wish to introduce to your school nutrition program—summer feeding, breakfast-in-the-classroom, or afterschool feeding, for example. Today’s blog will address the first session—Synergizing Efforts to Build National Farm and Food Education Curricula—but stay tuned to the blog for a breakdown of our second session later this week.
Synergizing Efforts to Build National Farm and Food Education Curricula: Resources
This fast-paced, 90-minute session included presentations from a variety of farm-to-school advocates, each addressing one of seven areas identified as critical components to the long-term success of farm-to-cafeteria programming.
Beth Hanna, from the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative at Community GroundWorks, talked about farm-to-school programming from a Personal Health perspective. Youth gardening gives students the opportunity to directly connect food to their own well-being, empowering them to take control of their own health. Next we heard from Whitney Cohen from Life Lab in Santa Cruz, California, on the importance of Eco Sustainability. Cohen gave us an overview of why ecological literacy is so important for students who may not have any previous connection to natural systems, including food systems. Programs like Life Lab can help bridge the gap between people and nature, giving students an opportunity to become invested in where their food comes from, and thus, create leaders to carry sustainability forward into the future.
Kyle Conforth of The Edible School Yard Berkeley gave us an overview of the Social and Emotional Learning aspects of farm-to-school programs, which give children the opportunity to pursue personal growth in a positive way; farm-to-school can offer students avenues to personal achievement they may not experience otherwise. In her remarks on Personal Achievement, Erin McKee Van Slooten from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy made the case for farm-to-school as a training ground for Future Advocates to develop food systems literacy, while also instilling a sense of ownership and empowerment in students. Expanding on those remarks was Joe Muellenberg from the Horticulture and 4-H Program, University of Wisconsin Extension; Joe gave examples of how intergenerational gardening (Family Garden School) and community service can build strong future leaders. Fostering generosity through volunteerism, said Joe, leads to empathy in students, who will carry those lessons forward through lifelong advocacy.
Addressing Community Engagement and Community Building was Lydi Morgan Bernal of ‘AINA in Schools: Kokua Hawai’i Foundation. ‘AINA is in the process of making their K-6 farm-to-school programming available online, and Bernal stressed the importance of volunteer engagement—including taking opportunities to show volunteers appreciation through special events and celebrations. Speaking about Agricultural Literacy and Food System Education was Sue Knott of Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, an organization with a huge wealth of online resources for teachers to integrate nutrition education into existing subject areas. Wrapping up the presentation, speaking more extensively about Academic Integration, were Grant Brigham of Jones Valley Farm and Morgan Rogers of Edible Schoolyard NYC. Brigham and Rogers each offered experiential advice on how academic integration of school gardens can enhance student learning in all areas.
Are you interested in learning more about farm-to-school programming? We encourage you to check out the organization links, above, to see what your colleagues across the country are doing to find success within their own school garden and/or farm-to-school efforts.