With a childhood obesity epidemic looming, not to mention an adult population looking as a whole a little top-heavy, it’s a good thing that Union County schools are getting involved in “Farm to School.” The program is open to all Union County public schools. It can be incorporated into any school lunch or snack programs and summer school programs.
Good nutrition is important. Since 95 percent of diets don’t work, it’s appropriate that schools are taking a different approach, incorporating good nutrition as part of a healthy lifestyle. The Farm to School program, made possible by a grant from Meyer-Memorial Trust, will, among other things, see local students growing vegetables and getting them on their own lunch trays.
The program should also help the students make good choices regarding what they put into their bodies. Teachers can incorporate some Farm to School concepts into their lesson plans. Learning about good nutrition across the curriculum makes sense in that it is a skill a student can use every day for the rest of her life. What’s more, the students will see the vegetable-growing process from seeds to food on the table.
The program gets under way March 5 when Oregon Rural Action hosts a panel discussion and informational workshop at the Union Baker ESD building in Island City. The morning session, 9 a.m. to noon, will focus on opportunities and challenges for producers. The afternoon session, 1 to 3:30 p.m., will focus on opportunities and challenges for schools and how schools and community members can work together.
The program has bigger goals. They are to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms and improve student health. The first goal is to improve the nutritional content of school meals by increasing locally-grown food in school lunch programs. This in turn could enhance students’ interest in and knowledge of making healthful food choices.
The second goal is to establish and enhance the marketing and distribution links between food service buyers and local farmers. The third goal is to maintain and economically enhance local food production and supply, providing greater access for people in need to nutritious foods at reasonable prices.
School administrators, food service personnel, teachers, parents and interested community members should get involved in the introductory workshop and in the three-year program. People such as Master Gardeners and local farmers can get in on the program, too, and lend a hand with the garden sites at schools, using them as outdoor classrooms where the kids are growing some of their own food. This will in turn enhance the connection between farms and schools and help students win the battle of the bulge.