Maryland was the first state to have every public school system participate in Homegrown School Lunch, an element of the Maryland Farm-to-School program, but then again, the state only has 24 school districts.
Taking Farm-to-School to the next level is where the real action is. Schools across the country have seen a dramatic rise in school gardens and healthy eating initiatives that make Farm-to-School a natural part of the school day.
‘Farm-to-School’ includes efforts to bring locally produced foods into school cafeterias; hands-on learning activities such as farm visits, producers visiting schools, school gardening, and culinary classes; and the integration of food-related education into the standards-based classroom curriculum.
In 2001, there were six documented Farm-to-School programs. By 2004, there were about 400, and today there are more than 2,350 documented programs in the US. About 77 percent of public school districts in Massachusetts have Farm-to-School programs, and one of those schools has cranked the program up a notch, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports.
Hope Guardenier, who founded the School Sprouts Education Gardens and the Farm Education Collaborative in Holyoke, Mass., has long believed agriculture has an integral role to play in school lessons. She has helped kids start gardens and learn something while they’re doing it. Important note: kids learn by doing, and if it’s doing something in dirt, all the better.
“It makes the learning the kids are doing more motivated and authentic,” a math teacher who helped start Jackson Street School’s gardening program in 2009 with Ms Guardenier and other teachers was quoted as saying. “They’re not looking at the parts of a seed in a book; they can actually open a seed pod, open a bean pod, and see the parts. … It’s been really exciting. It’s really transformed our curriculum.”
As far as the kids are concerned, they can’t wait to go to the farm and play among the rows of veggies, grown organically although the food isn’t certified organic. Elementary school students, for instance, get a little excited by the new tasks they get to explore. “The majority of them had never pulled a carrot from the ground, even though they’ve all eaten them,” Ms Guardenier was quoted as saying.
For more information on Farm-to-School in Illinois and other states: