Farm to School gains momentum in greater Green Bay
GREEN BAY - October is a month that celebrates transformation, including leaves changing the landscape into a picturesque masterpiece and temperatures cooling from their summer peaks.
October also marks a celebration of a community transformation unfolding within our children’s schools — Farm to School.
Farm to School is a national movement that connects schools with local farmers to develop impactful relationships, contribute to a strong local economy and provide a greater sense of connection from farm to fork. When we teach our children where their food comes from, we shift the culture around food. Research shows this can have a profound effect on everything from academic success to mental well-being to the development of healthy, lifelong eating habits.
Live54218’s role in Farm to School began in 2012, when we convened a task force with nine school districts in Brown County. One of the first large-scale projects was the implementation of classroom lessons, with nutrition educators taking farm to school lessons into local schools. Along with classroom lessons, came a focus on school gardens and the involvement of Food Service staff in not only preparing produce grown in school gardens, but actively working on how to purchase and serve food grown by local farmers on school lunch trays.
In the last few years, we have seen an explosion in Farm to School programming, with many of our partner schools increasing Farm to School activity across grade levels and departments. Our organization has been able to “share the bounty” of this movement by telling the stories of the successes in our region.
Schools as food systems
One of the hallmarks of effective Farm to School programming is reaching beyond food and nutrition to encouraging students and school administrators to view schools as food systems — growing what they can in school gardens, and looking for what is available to purchase in their local area.
The Pulaski Community School District, for instance, gets produce from Twin Elm Gardens, which is less than a half mile down the road from a number of its schools. The Unified School District of De Pere uses their school gardens as well as Ledgeview Gardens to supplement salad bars and recipes. At Ashwaubenon High School, teacher Dan Albrent has even started a food system right on the grounds of the high school with the goal of one day providing produce for the entire district.
Beyond local procurement, teachers are finding that Farm to School lessons can be integrated into science and math curriculum, and in one classroom, students recently designed and graphed the layout of their new school garden.
Why is this important? We spoke earlier about the health and learning benefits for students who are exposed to Farm to School programming, but the community benefits as well. It’s estimated that each dollar invested in Farm to School stimulates an additional $0.60-$2.16 of local economic activity. Farm to School programs introduce a new generation to innovative, entrepreneurial jobs arising around local and sustainable farming, values that resonate with our local area. Programming like this also creates a network of community engagement.
You can feel the momentum in the air as our community continues to lead transformational efforts around Farm to School.