October is National Farm to School Month!

Local farms can connect students to their food source.

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the partnerships that are happening all over the country between schools and local food. In 2010, the United States House of Representatives declared October to be National Farm to School Month, recognizing the strong role Farm to School programs play in promoting good health and strong economies.

Farm to School is defined as any program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Because this is a grassroots movement, Farm to School programs look different in every community.

October is the perfect month for purchasing apples, squash, kale, rutabagas, tomatoes and peppers from local sources – directly from farmers or food distributors. School can also request from their current produce distributor that the food they are being sold comes from Michigan farmers. Schools don’t have to purchase all of the fresh food they serve from the local farmer, but according to a Michigan State University Extension educator, purchasing 20 percent of their food locally could have a huge effect on the local farm economy. Because Michigan produces a diverse food supply, schools have an opportunity to purchase, prepare and feed school students with healthy, fresh, local food.

Schools can also purchase their food from food distributors that purchase from food hubs like Detroit Eastern Market. Many local farmers sell their produce at Detroit Eastern Market and Food Distribution companies purchase their produce from these local farmers. In Southeast Michigan schools may need a large supplier to meet all of their food needs. A food distributor can help schools get the local food they need and deliver it.

Farm to School is a win-win situation for farmers, children, communities, the economy and the environment. There are other economic benefits as well. When a school or individual buys direct from local farmers, 80-90 percent of each dollar goes straight in the farmers’ pocket, meaning more money stays in your community. Other resources can be found at Farmtoschoolmonth.org.

Parents can get involved by requesting that their schools form a committee to purchase local food, help identify farmers, and even take kids on field trips to local farms.

To help connect schools with local farmers or for more information about Farm to School in Michigan, contact Katherine Hale at halek@anr.msu.edu or 586-469-6088.

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