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Farm to School Promotes Better Nutrition, Healthier Students, and Positive Academic Outcomes

bigbetThe month of October brings to mind thoughts of crisp fall weather, bountiful harvests….and apple crunches?! Yes, it’s that time of year again…Farm to School Month is officially in full swing! There is a lot to love about farm to school, from its focus on fostering deeper relationships with local farmers and community organizations to featuring fresh produce in school meals to integrating nutrition and agricultural education in the classroom. Apparently, I am not alone. Consider these stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2015 Farm to School Census: Approximately 42% of U.S. school districts, including more than 42,500 schools, are participating in farm to school activities, impacting 23.6 million students.

 

However, farm to school’s influence extends far beyond the school garden and cafeteria, providing the raw ingredients our students need to succeed in the classroom and in life. We all know there are great benefits associated with consuming a nutritious, well-balanced meal. Yet, many students, especially those from underserved communities, still lack access to healthy foods. In recent years, a number of studies have been conducted to better understand the relationship between healthy eating behaviors in students and their academic outcomes. Their results confirm what we have always suspected. Students who consume a healthy diet with a variety of nutrients are more prepared to learn, perform better on exams, have fewer absences, and exhibit improved behavior in and out of school.[1][2] This article provides an excellent overview of how nutrition influences learning potential and performance.

 

GreenNotes’ second foray into covering farm to school features a variety of ways that schools, districts, and supporting organizations are embracing this powerful movement. The Center for Ecoliteracy and Conscious Kitchen are helping schools rethink their school meal programs through initiatives like California Thursdays and transitioning to organic, non-GMO meals. Whitsons Culinary Group has developed a set of programs that put local, farm raised foods at the center of the menu, while the Burlington School Food Project is working with schools in Vermont to infuse food- and garden-based educational opportunities into their curriculum. San Diego Unified School District shares best practices that drive their farm to school programming while Livingston Public Schools in Montana present their Trout to Tray initiative. The USDA Office of Community Food Systems wraps things up with five ways to start, or enhance, a farm to school program.

 

Enjoying healthy, delicious food and learning how our food systems impact our communities and the environment need not be confined to one month out of the year. So, raise an apple this month to farm to school and commit to teaching its tenants throughout the calendar year. Your students have much to gain from it!

 

Happy Fall!

Jenny

 

See full article on Green Schools National Network here.

 

 

References:

[1] Sorhaindo, A., & Feinstein, L. (2006). What is the relationship between child nutrition and school outcomes. Wider Benefits of Learning Research Report No.18. Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning

[2] Florence, M., Asbridge, M., & Veugelers, P. (2008). Diet quality and academic performance. Journal of School Health, 78, 209–215.