Farm To School
The National Farm to School Network has identified multiple health benefits of farm to school programs for students and their families. The Network describes the efforts and outcomes of farm to school as thus: “Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Farm to school implementation differs by location but always includes one or more of the following:
- Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste-test;
- Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health or nutrition; and
- School gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening.”
LiveWell Colorado has created and supported several tools to make Farm to School implementation easier and more prolific in Colorado.
Colorado Farm to School Primer
LiveWell Colorado’s Farm to School Primer provides a snapshot of current school food conditions in Colorado, demonstrates how Colorado schools can increase the use of fresh and local foods, discusses how some Colorado schools are addressing common concerns, and addresses the ways in which the community at large can get involved in making Farm to School work well in Colorado.
The Primer identifies several opportunities that arise integrating locally sourced foods into the school food equation:
- Provide fresh, healthy food choices for our children,
- Help the local economy,
- Reduce food miles and energy use, and
- Support local farmers and ranchers.
Overview of School Food Procurement
In addition to Colorado’s school districts, there are numerous organizations, funders, and individuals across the state who are passionately committed to making our schools’ food the healthiest it can be for our students. LiveWell Colorado aims to support these efforts by increasing the transparency of the school food procurement and distribution system. This spring 2011 report aims to help advance a common understanding and shared language about how school food works and can be used to inform future policy and advocacy decisions by a wide variety of organizations.
Farm to School and Food Systems Webinar Series
LiveWell Colorado hosted Colorado Farm to School’s Webinar Series that includes 10 webinars that cover procurement models for schools, school gardens, greenhouses and farmers markets, evaluation tools, and more. Webinars are archived here. LiveWell also hosted 15 webinars covering a wide variety of food systems topics including school-based food systems education, youth gardening efforts, and more. Webinars are archived here.
COFTS supports the development of regional farm-to-school networks across the state. Objectives include:
- Increasing awareness of both schools and producers of existing opportunities for partnership.
- Dissemination of marketing tools and resources.
- Assessment of primary policy and regulatory opportunities and barriers for farm to school.
- Development of missing physical infrastructure to support local food production.
- Supporting technical assistance to schools and producers to develop customized processes that further farm to school efforts.
In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado Farm to School Task Force to “study, develop, and recommend policies and methods to best implement a Farm to School program.” The fifteen appointed members and ten ex-officios meet quarterly. The Core Team meets monthly.
Additional resources include:
The Network creates and disseminates a wealth of resources including templates, curricula, funding information, webinars, conference information, evaluation and research, and state-specific information.
FTPS includes model curricula, tools and resources for schools and parents, funding information, regular newsletters, recent news, webinars, information about national conferences, and more.