In partnership with Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, the National Farm to School Network conducted a survey of early care and education (ECE) providers across the United States to gain insight into their interest in and current implementation of Farm to ECE. The survey provided some exciting results around the Farm to ECE movement! Here are some highlights from the survey.
Forty-nine percent of survey respondents reported that they currently conduct Farm to ECE activities and 30 percent of respondents stated they have plans to begin Farm to ECE activities within the next year.
The most common Farm to ECE activity is education surrounding locally grown food, how food grows, and where it comes from; followed by planting or working in an onsite garden. Of the respondents that are already participating in Farm to ECE, 82 percent stated they have had positive feedback from children and 73 percent shared they have had positive feedback from parents.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents shared that they use locally grown food in the meals and/or snacks (including taste tests) provided to the children at their center with 54 percent of all respondents sharing they plan to increase their local purchases within the next two to three years. That is a lot of healthy, fresh produce reaching children!
As the Farm to ECE and Farm to School programs gain momentum in Colorado and nationwide, support for and the benefits of these programs continue to grow and will become even more widespread. To learn more about Farm to ECE check out the resources here: Farm to ECE Resources
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) also has a grant program for ECE providers called CHOP “Cooking up Healthy Options with Plants.” One of their sub-grantees, Little Giants Learning Center—in Commerce City, CO—is a wonderful example of a center embracing Farm to ECE! They attended the culinary training provided by LiveWell Colorado and received funding towards a school garden and access to a curriculum that supports the introduction of more fresh fruits and vegetables into their program.
This center reached out to their community and received support and resources that helped them build their own garden. It is a big success with both parents and their kids actively engaging in the process of growing food and sharing the knowledge with others in their community. Parents love walking through the garden with their kids and reminiscing about when they were a child and the different fruits and vegetables they might have grown.
This garden truly gives the students a chance to actively watch and play a role in growing their own food, leading to more understanding and awareness about what it takes to get that item on their plate. The center also incorporates that educational component into the classroom. This allows the students another opportunity to interact with new items and become familiar with them. They even integrate cooking activities into their classes and have the kids chop items like squash and zucchini and then make a lasagna from it!
All of these efforts are melding together and they are noticing that the students are excited to participate and more open to trying new things. They are even hearing stories from parents about how their kids are able to identify different fruits and vegetables when they go shopping with their parents! Little Giants Learning Center has gone above and beyond in ensuring their students receive the absolute best and we know there are other centers out there on the same path!
If you are a center looking to expand your Farm to ECE efforts, consider applying for the Colorado Cooking up Healthy Options with Plants (CHOP) Program. Applications are now open and can be accessed here: CHOP Website Be sure to check the website soon as applications must be submitted by November 24!
Looking for some great recipes for your program? CHOP has a wonderful resource with many delicious recipes for you to choose from. Browse the full list here: CHOP Recipes or check out this featured fall recipe for Central Harvest Bake here: Central Harvest Bake.