Food Forward MI: Farm to School

http://cedam.info/2016/08/farm-to-school/
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“Combating childhood obesity, diabetes and other nutrition related disease can start in the classroom and extend to the family as students are educated and then empowered to make healthy food choices.”

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school-1182584_1920Rewind to 2015’s Where Food Access and Community Development Merge post, we reiterate that a community food system isn’t just about connecting local growers to a farm market or boosting seasonal tourism. It’s about the triple bottom line and improving health, wealth and social impact. One way to build community through food system development begins with field (or even the playground) and ends on students’ forks. Over the last decade, there has been increasing acknowledgement of the connection between physical education and school lunch programs as an opportunity for a one-two health-economy punch. Combating childhood obesity, diabetes and other nutrition-related disease can start in the classroom and extend to the family as students are educated and then empowered to make healthy food choices. The key word being empowerment. Students must have the option of making healthy food choices along with education regarding their impact. Nationally, this connection is being drawn by Farm-to-School programs that are providing youth with healthy food access; encouraging lifelong healthy eating habits, supporting local farmers, reducing negative environmental impacts, preserving rural communities and promoting awareness of how empowered choices make impactful outcomes.

NFSN-Logo-Vertical-Full-ColorThe National Farm to School Network (NFSN) empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. NSFN provides vision, leadership and support at the state, regional and national levels to connect and expand the farm to school movement, which according to their data collection, has grown from “a handful of schools in the late 1990s to approximately 42,000 schools in all 50 states as of 2014.” Within the mitten, Michigan Farm to School (MFS) at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) focuses statewide efforts to serve local foods in school, early childcare and education food programs. To learn about specific programs contact Farm to School Specialist Abigail Harper at harperab@anr.msu.edu.

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“Findings indicated that across the state, the top motivating factors for local procurement were supporting the local economy, helping MI farms, offering access to fresher food and that of higher quality, as well as increasing student consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

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In May of 2016, the CRFS released its report MI Farm to School Grant Program: The First Three Years noting influences and barriers to local food purchasing as well as product ranking, funding opportunity and advice for programming. Findings indicated that across the state, the top motivating factors for local procurement were supporting the local economy, helping MI farms, offering access to fresher food and that of higher quality, as well as increasing student consumption of fruits and vegetables. At the same time, findings also indicated that many cafeterias find sourcing seasonally a barrier, run into budget constraints, find federal and state procurement regulation to also be a barrier and lack enough local regional producers to meet demand.

For more information, please contact Jessica AcMoody, Senior Policy Specialist at CEDAM or check out: http://foodsystems.msu.edu/resources/fid-guide

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About the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the CEO of One-Community Consulting, a social enterprise connecting business, non-profit, academic and philanthropic organizations to empower vibrant community. She holds multiple degrees in agriculture and community development and is currently pursuing an MBA. Mary’s passion is fostering sustainable development through citizen engagement. Follow Mary on Twitter @Mary_ZumBrunnen. Learn more at one-communityconsulting.com.

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