In Georgia, we have a growing number of children who are at least two generations from the farm. We also have far too many children who overweight or obese.
Farm-to-school programs in Georgia are working to reconnect children to the source of their food and inspire them to try all the healthy foods that we grow here in Georgia.
Loosely defined, farm-to-school programs, “connect K-12 schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in schools, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers,” according to farmtoschool.org.
Research has shown that young people are much more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables when they appreciate the origin of those foods. Learning about the origin of food might include visiting a local farm, tasting a radish they personally grew in a school garden or participating in a live cooking demonstration. All of this can be considered as farm-to-school programming.
If you want to develop a farm-to-school program at your child’s school, county and state UGA Extension personnel are ready and willing to work with you and your child’s teachers to move your farm-to-school efforts forward.
Extension personnel can connect schools with local farmers, provide curriculum and instruction on nutrition education, and assist with the implementation of school gardens.
Nutritional education, agriculture and youth are at the heart of Cooperative Extension programming. UGA Extension agents specializing in agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences and 4-H have conducted numerous farm-to-school programs.
Since youth horticultural education and school gardens are a large part of these programs, David Knauft with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has developed a website that brings together a multitude of resources for you to use. Visit http://extension.uga.edu/k12/school-gardens to find help in topics ranging from starting a youth garden to sustaining that garden over time.
If you are interested in introducing a farm-to-school program in your community, October would be a great time to plan an event. October is National Farm to School Month. For more great resources, visit http://www.farmtoschoolmonth.org and contact your local Extension office in your community.
(Judy Ashley is the University of Georgia county Extension coordinator in Walton County.)