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From Farm to School: The Push to Get Locally Grown Food to American School Children

written by: •edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/8/2010

Farm to School programs can simultaneously fight the childhood obesity epidemic and preserve the livelihoods of local farmers all while saving taxpayer money.

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    Farm to School Programs

    As a parent, what if someone told you that there was a cost-effective way to put delicious, nutritious, local food on your child’s school lunch table? As a tax payer, what if someone told you about a program that would help small local farmers and school budgets and would also lower your tax bill? Luckily, there is such a program proposed by the National Farm to School Network, and one day, hopefully, school children, farmers, and taxpayers alike will benefit from the push for local food in schools.

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    What are Farm to School Programs?

    According to a report by the National Farm to School Network, students in more than 2,000 districts are already eating delicious, locally grown food served to them by their school lunch staff. This has been made possible by grassroots efforts all over the country. These efforts are made up of people who have taken two very disturbing trends – the increase in childhood obesity and the decline of small, family-owned farms – and created a solution that leads to nutritious food for school children and more money in the pockets of family farmers.

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    Fresh Food Curbs Childhood Obesity

    According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, one third of American youth is currently obese or at risk for obesity, and that rate has tripled over the past thirty years. The report cited a “substantial underinvestment” in resources to curb what is rapidly become a child obesity epidemic.

    That is where Farm to School programs come in. Studies conducted in Riverside, CA and Portland, OR found that children who had access to fresh vegetables in school lunches were likely to eat more vegetables at home than children who did not. A similar study in Ventura, CA showed that students who had the choice between a Farmer’s Market salad and a hot lunch chose the salad by a ratio of 14 to 1.

    Not only do Farm to School programs curb childhood obesity, they also allow children to become more responsible citizens by showing them where their food comes from and giving them an early understanding of economic principles when it comes to their own communities.

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    Farm to School Helps Local Farmers Stay on the Land

    We have all heard about the plight of small farmers, and the truth is that most small farmers are having a hard time just breaking even. Since 1950, the farmer’s share of every food dollar has dropped from 41 cents to 19 cents. Local Farm to School programs would allow small farmers a set market for their goods. This would allow them to grow and bring their produce not just to school children but to a larger share of the entire community.

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    How Can You Bring Farm to School to Your Community?

    Unfortunately, while there are Farm to School programs out there, there has not, up until this point, been any federal funding for these programs. While a bill to allow for federal funding for Farm to School programs passed in 2004, no funds were appropriated to it. For now, parents and tax payers interested in food from farms to schools should visit FarmtoSchool.org for resources on starting a local program. Then make a call or send a letter to your congressperson expressing your interest in funding for Farm to School programs nationwide.