Center Launches National Farm to School Network and Website
Occidental College’s Center for Food and Justice, in collaboration with the Venice, Calif.-based Community Food Security Coalition, is launching a National Farm to School Network, a groundbreaking effort to encourage small farms to provide fresh produce to schools.
The network, an association of educators, farmers, parents, teachers and policy experts, promotes the expansion of farm-to-school programs across the country.
The associated web site – www.farmtoschool.org – serves as a one-stop information resource on farm-to-school programs throughout the United States. It also is expected to generate interest among existing farm-to-school programs and help stimulate new ones.
“The site contains useful resources and materials that can be downloaded, including highlights from farm-to-school initiatives in 15 states,” said Robert Gottlieb, Occidental professor of urban and environmental policy and director of the college’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, which oversees the Center for Food and Justice. “Each state page is tailored with a state overview or profile, contact information, program examples, policies, engaged organizations, information on farms and farmers, media coverage, upcoming events and funding opportunities.”
“Already, over 400 farm-to-school programs in 23 states are positively impacting children’s diets and small-farm viability by providing local, healthy farm products to school cafeterias, incorporating nutrition education in the classroom and experiential learning that is influencing the dietary choices of children,” added national farm-to-school program coordinator Anupama Joshi.
The launch of the network and the web site comes at a critical juncture. The number of overweight school-age children in the United States tripled from 5 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2000. New farm-to-cafeteria legislation, recently passed by Congress, provides incentives for schools to participate in a farm-to-school approach. “Farm-to-school represents an impressive win-win solution for small farmers, school-age children, and schools alike,” Gottlieb said. “The website is an important education and action tool to make that happen.”
Over the past seven years, the Center for Food and Justice has been a leader in the farm-to-school movement. In 1997, the center was instrumental in launching a farmers’ market fruit and salad bar in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District – a program now found in every school in the district. A UCLA study found that low-income students who participated in salad bar programs increased their daily intake of fruits and vegetables by more than 40 percent.
Backed with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the center initiated a national farm-to-school program in 2000. A consortium of partners – UC Davis, Rutgers, Cornell, Penn State, the California Department of Education, the Davis Joint Unified School District, the Community Food Security Coalition, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers – have made substantial progress in developing new programs in California, New Jersey and New York.