October is Farm to School Month! It's a celebration of food education, school gardens, and school meals made from healthy, local food. Farm to school foods ensure the freshest foods in school meals and help support local economies at the same time. Money spent in your community stays in your community.
Despite the continued challenges school nutrition programs are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, some schools are finding the farm to school movement is an opportunity to help alleviate the pressure of supply chain disruptions. Schools nationwide are leaning into local sourcing and finding creative ways to incorporate into school meals. In Alabama, a local farm is ensuring fresh produce features on lunch trays when food distributors cannot. A school in Maine is ordering more local tomatoes to replace hard-to-come-by canned tomatoes.
"Slice them up, roast them off, we'll give them a little puree and then freeze them and that way we can use them as we would canned crushed tomatoes for tomato soups, marinara sauce, chili – anything that calls for that.”
- Chef Ryan Roderick, Windham Raymond School District
In Green Bay, Wisconsin, a community wellness task force and school districts are working together to ensure local foods continue to feature on lunch trays and fill the gaps in the supply chain.
“This year we have seen unprecedented supply chain challenges. At first it was main entree items, next it was paper products, and now we are seeing challenges with produce supply. That is why working with local farms and suppliers is imperative to continue to serve students healthy, well-balanced meals… we have been able to procure fresh, local produce that students do not need utensils to eat and that is manageable for our kitchen staff to work with.”
- Foodservice Director Caitlin Harrison, Pulaski Community School District
Launching a new farm to school program might seem like a crazy idea on top of an already stressful school year, but thankfully you don’t have to go it alone. Check out the National Farm to School Network or search to find state or local level organizations that can help you get started.
If you’re already incorporating local foods in your menus, but need some ideas for how to celebrate Farm to School Month or maybe you’re interested connecting the cafeteria to the classroom through food and agricultural education, we encourage you to check out these great resources!
Farm to School Month is a perfect opportunity to teach students about where food comes from and the benefits of supporting locally grown foods. But that doesn't mean it's limited to October – farm to school is a year-round movement (and perhaps a much needed life-line if you’re struggling with procuring food)!