With the end of October nearing, National Farm to School Month is also coming to a close. But this doesn’t mean that Farm to School efforts have to end! These programs promote connections between students, schools, and local farmers which should be celebrated and implemented year-round.
The USDA Farm to School Census from 2013 to 2014 showed that 23.6 million kids were involved with Farm to School programming. This means that millions of kids around the country are learning about where their food comes from, eating locally sourced food, taking trips to farms, and gaining healthier habits.
Farm to School is doing more than keeping kids healthy and teaching them about their food. It also has a lasting impact on the local economy. A case study conducted by the National Farm to School Network showed that farmers who participated in farm to school programs in surveyed states saw more of their money stay in their region than non-farm to school farmers. In the same study, it was found that more jobs were created in the local economy through use of farm to school programs.
In some states there are laws in place that make it easier for farm to school efforts to be implemented, and for communities to reap the benefits of those programs. The State Farm to School Legislative Survey showed that from 2002 to 2013, over 20 percent of states had legislation that enabled and supported Farm to School programs. During that same time period, no legislation was passed in Arizona.
In 2016, Arizona SB 1004 passed, which allowed schools to use food grown in their gardens in school meals. While this legislation has certainly been helpful, there’s still room for improvement.
This could soon happen nationally with the Farm to School Act of 2017. The National Farm to School Network said this proposed act will increase funding for Farm to School programs from $5 million to $15 million. The new bill will extend Farm to School to early care facilities, summer food service sites, and after school programs. It will also increase Farm to School’s access to tribal schools and tribal producers.
The passing of this bill could do great things for Arizona, and the rest of the country. If you want to support the Farm to School movement, contact your Arizona state representatives, and of course get out and vote! Farm to School is giving children the opportunity to learn new skills and make healthier decisions, as well as supporting Arizona farmers and economies. Let’s make it a part of each community in our state not just during National Farm to School Month, but all year long!