Stories from Farm to School Awareness Day 2017

Posted on February 14, 2017

On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, Farm to School champions gathered at the Vermont State House in Montpelier to advocate for the expansion of Vermont’s Farm to School program and raise awareness of the positive impact Farm to School has on Vermont kids, our health, and the local economy.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the House Education Committee took time to hear directly from school nutrition staff, educators, farmers, students, nonprofits, state agencies, and school administrators on how farm to school has made a difference. These Farm to School champions spoke of school farms, the food on lunch trays, innovative community relationships, and how the health of kids and adults alike is benefiting from this work. Here are just a few highlights from these testimonies:

It feels great to be in the garden. Our garden is beautiful. We need Farm to School because it is important for us to have access to healthy food so we can have a healthy life. The taste tests are awesome and wonderful! —Wyatt, third grade student, Floodbrook School

Farm to School programs are part of a bigger culture shift toward overall sustainability and are a powerful way to bring life skills in wellness and place-based learning to any group of students. —Amy Richardson, Richardson Family Farm Farmer & Farm to School Coordinator

"We have seen how much a little garden can change the school lunches we eat and the school and community around us." —Given & Kiara, eighth grade students, Twinfield Union School

We support Farm to School activities because they help to build healthy habits in children like eating more fruits and vegetables. This not only leads to better health, but we know that healthy, well-fed children are more successful learners. —Dr. Chen, Vermont Department of Health Commissioner

In school food, I found the opportunity to change the course of health and wellness for students we serve, as well as for their families. —Kathy Alexander, Director, ANESU Food Service Cooperative

Our families begin to appreciate and understand that local food has value. Families want what is best for their children, and they are thankful and appreciative when children are being exposed to new, healthy foods. Some families feel that local foods are out of their reach for economic reasons or simply because getting transportation to the farmers’ market is  difficult. When parents learn that their children are more likely to eat Brussels sprouts because they’ve had them in school… they’re more inclined to spend their food dollars on healthy, local food because they know their children will eat it. —Suzanne Young, Mary Johnson Children's Center, Chef & Food Educator

[Farm to School] is a powerful tool to build our local agricultural economy while we teach our youth about healthy eating, healthy food systems, and healthy communities. —Jamie Spector, Maple Hill Farm & Community School, Development / HR Coordinator and Social Worker

The day continued with the announcement of the 2017-18 Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Market’s Farm to School Grants. Since 2007, Vermont’s Farm to School Grant Program has supported 138 schools serving 40,000 students. Past grant recipients told their stories of success, and $80,000 was allocated to the following schools “to engage students in their local food system by incorporating local food and farm education into their cafeterias, classrooms and communities”:

Implementation Grants

Bellows Free Academy Fairfax
Cornwall School
Guilford Central School
Flood Brook School

Planning Grants

Albany Community School
Concord School
Currier Memorial School
Mill River Unified Union School District
Lamoille Union High School

Universal Meals Grants

Craftsbury Schools
Currier Memorial School
Poultney Elementary School
St. Johnsbury School
Windsor State Street School

Upcoming Farm to School campaign activities include Legislative budget hearings on February 13th and 16th where we will ask to increase the base appropriation for Vermont Farm to School to $500,000 through the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.