Friday, January 17, 2020
US flag

Fresh, local food for lots of Md. students

More Maryland school districts purchase local foods for summer nutrition programs than any other state in the nation, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and that’s great news for local children. The USDA’s recently released Farm to School Census has placed a spotlight on Maryland’s success.

A farmers’ market typically sells locally grown fruits and vegetables (Mass. Ofc. of Travel & Tourism/Flickr CC)

Nationally, 22 percent of districts participating in Farm to School purchase local foods for their summer programs. Maryland is at the head of the class, with 68 percent of school districts participating. A few states—West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island—have a higher percentage of school districts participating in Farm to School programs, but these states don’t have their Farm-to-School districts purchase locally grown food at the same high rate—59 percent—as Maryland.

(The rate in Illinois is much lower: 24 percent of districts in the state participate in Farm to School programs, which is about average for the entire country, despite the rich farmland to be found in most of the state.)

During the summer, Maryland growers produce a rich agricultural abundance, and school districts take advantage of the fresh, local offerings by serving them in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP is a USDA program that combats childhood hunger by reimbursing agencies for meals served to children during the summer.

“Summer can be a difficult time for children who rely on school meals. Without access to nutritious food, many of our students experience hunger and the subsequent negative health and learning effects,” said Karen Salmon, acting state superintendent of schools. “Incorporating local foods into the summer nutrition programs not only supports Maryland agriculture, but also enhances the healthfulness of the meals children receive.”

Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder shared his appreciation for Maryland schools: “I commend the school systems for buying Maryland-grown products throughout the school year,” he said.”

The Summer Food Service Program offers an additional opportunity for schools and other providers to incorporate products grown by Maryland farmers into┬ásummer┬ámeals, but in addition to offering local foods, some SFSP agencies have begun serving summer meals at farmers’ markets across the State. Anne Arundel County Public Schools, for example, has partnered with the County Health Department and Shlagel Farms to operate a pop-up market at one of their existing SFSP sites.

The SFSP is open to children and teens age 18 and under and to individuals over 18 who are mentally or physically disabled. Use this Google Maps interface to locate a site near you by just typing in your ZIP Code. And to learn more about Maryland’s Farm to School Program, visit the page on the website for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, here.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.

Md. & IL bands perform on New Year’s in...

Bands from IL and Md. once again entertained thousands of people who lined the streets of London and Rome on New Year's Day.

Howard Co. sounds an under-staffing alarm

Teachers in a Md. district have filed a grievance over missing planning and lunch periods and, as a result, putting the most vulnerable students at risk.

Top 11 school stories of 2019

We find these 11 stories to have the greatest potential for influencing activity and direction in schools for the near future.

Girls’ volleyball champs in Illinois

We congratulate the Illinois state champions in girls' volleyball: Newark, St Teresa, Sterling, & Benet Academy.

A weekend of ‘band geeks’ across America

The musical Band Geeks was in performance at a MD high school, just as marching bands from across America named a national champion.

2 dead, 3 wounded in Calif. school shooting

Another school shooting has resulted in the death of 2 California high school students. The suspect shot himself and is in custody.

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.