Farm to School initiative offers a number of programs to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into schools
DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today said that five year old Iowa Farm to School program now has twenty-three chapters operating across the state that reached an additional 13,000 students in 2012.
“We are excited about the interest in the Farm to School program and the growth we have seen in the number of chapters and the programs those chapters are offering,” Northey said. “We are pleased to see more students enjoying fresh, local foods while learning about the farmers that grow our food.”
The Iowa Farm to School Program began in 2007 and is managed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The goals of the program are to link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers; provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa-grown food for inclusion in schools meals and snacks; and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits.
The twenty-three Farm to School Chapters have undertaken a variety of activities, such as local food procurement programs, that are personalized to meet their district’s individual needs. Approved chapters are eligible to receive up to a $4,000 start-up grant to support activities that help achieve the program goals. Chapters can be found in schools of all size across the state, including small schools, such as the Pekin School District, to the larger metro schools such as those in Des Moines and Iowa City.
To help promote Iowa growers and the specialty crops they produce, the Department has also created an online Fruit and Vegetable Farm Directory. The directory is available to anyone looking for Iowa grown fruits and vegetables.
The Department has also partnered with the Iowa Department of Education to create a unique online “bid sheet” to help simplify the process schools go through to find locally grown foods. This “bid sheet” not only saves schools valuable time and energy in finding Iowa-grown foods, but also provides a new marketing opportunity for fruit and vegetable growers.
The Iowa Farm to School program offers a variety of ways for schools to get involved. Ongoing initiatives include “A is for Apple” which help make locally grown apples available in schools, and “A Garden is the Way to Grow” that support the establishment of school gardens. Other initiatives such as “Wrap Your Own-Iowa Grown” promote the purchase of locally-grown vegetables and products to create Iowa grown wraps.
In 2013 the Department is planning to continue to offer opportunities for schools to engage in farm to school through new efforts such as the “Growing Together” project, which will target FFA chapters.
“We hope other schools interested in starting a chapter will contact the Department and help us reach even more students with fresh, Iowa grown fruits and vegetables in 2013,” Northey said.
Schools or communities interested in learning more about the Iowa Farm to School program can visit www.IowaAgriculture.gov and click on the “Farm to School Program” link under “Hot Topics.”
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