Food Education/ Farm to School

(A Central Appalachian Foodshed Conference Session Topic)

Session Host: Emily Jackson, ASAP

Participants in this session discussed food education that helps both rural and urban kids know where their food comes from. The group also discussed reaching a balance between emphasizing procurement of local food with promoting education and community access to local and healthy food, so that procurement and education occur in tandem and complement each other. Participants shared stories from their work that highlighted successes and challenges. They also discussed the value of locally-owned food distribution companies, and the challenges of working with larger distribution companies when a local company is not an option. They also discussed the boost to the local and regional economy commonly associated with the purchase of local food by institutions, as one of the main selling points when trying to help institutions convert to sourcing food locally.

The issue of farm viability arose with the question: ‘is the institution/school market profitable for farmers?’. The group examined some of the challenges of making farm to school and farm to institution work for all involved parties. Participants identified the disconnect between local procurement in the cafeteria, and food education in the classroom as an area for improvement. They noted the lack of communication across schools; it is difficult for school and institution food workers to share information and success stories. They also noted the common hurdle of overcoming bureaucracy that makes it difficult to carry out this work.

The group also shared successes and things that have made a positive impact in their efforts. These included taste tests, field trips, and encouraging students to share food education with their parents. One participant also found engaging adults, and especially educators, by bringing them to tour farms has had a positive impact because it helps them buy-in to what they are teaching. Session participants agreed that it is critical to stay motivated and not get discouraged in this work, and to emphasize education for all consumers (adults and children).

Key Issues/Questions:

  • How to make sure food education programs are effective and dynamic so that they reach students and parents

  • How to make sure local procurement works for all parties (producers, food service, eaters)

  • Making sure local food procurement is complemented by food education (and vice versa)

  • The importance of staying positive to keep the work moving forward

Additional notes from the session