And farmers and schools working together creates a great opportunity for Ohio’s students to gain access to fresh, healthy, local foods, an Ohio State University expert said.
Thanks to the national Farm to School program, which in Ohio is led by Ohio State University Extension and operates in school districts throughout Ohio, students pre-K through college have increased access to nutritious food.
In addition to providing young people with fresh, local food, Farm to School also helps them understand where their food comes from and how food choices affect their health, environment and community, said Julie Fox, director of Ohio State’s Farm to School program.
With October designated nationwide and in Ohio as Farm to School month, organizers say it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the program and to build support for Farm to School programs statewide.
“There’s a lot of good momentum right now going on in the Farm to School program,” Fox said. “With the recent signing of the resolution of Farm to School month in Ohio from Gov. John Kasich to the growing partnerships we are developing with schools and organizations statewide, the Farm to School program is benefiting more and more people.”
Some of the new resources available to Ohio schools include $100,000 in mini-grants from the Ohio Department of Education to fund local Farm to School projects and a new Seed to Salad Tool Kit offered by the Ohio Department of Health, she said.
Ohio State will also host a statewide Farm to School conference March 13, 2013, Fox said.
“The program continues to gain increased local and state support as more people become familiar with the benefits it offers schools, communities and farmers,” she said. “This program has a triple positive bottom line.
“Young people access fresh local foods, and it is helping to grow local and regional economies, which circulates money within the community and strengthens relationships throughout the community.”
For farmers and producers, the program offers the opportunity to reach new markets, Fox said.
“Farmers benefit from the program through access to a committed market with constant, steady demand, getting reliable prices for their products, increased community awareness and support, market diversity and the promotion of nutrition for children,” she said.
Granville’s Farm to School Program
Chuck Dilbone, director of business operations at Granville High School, wasn’t happy with the food his district was providing students. During Ohio Farm Bureau’s Bringing It to the Table conference, he discussed the challenges of incorporating local foods into school lunch programs. Held in early 2011, the conference was the first step in an effort to spark fresh thinking and collaboration in pursuit of new ideas for farmers, consumers, food processors, grocers, restaurateurs and anyone else with an interest in Ohio food and farming.