October 2011 has been recognized as the first National "Farm to School" month and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is inviting the 19 existing Iowa Farm to School Chapters to apply for up to $300 in grant funding from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to purchase local foods. Schools interested in starting a Farm to School chapter can visit www.IowaAgriculture.gov for more information.
"The Iowa Farm to School program is gaining momentum statewide and helping students enjoy fresh, local foods and also teaching them about the farmers that grow our food," says Northey. "Many of the chapters have undertaken creative efforts to provide students with more fresh, local foods and this grant is an opportunity to support them in their efforts."
Get kids to eat more locally grown, minimally processed Iowa food
The Iowa Farm to School Program began in 2007. The goal of the program is to link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers; provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa—grown food for inclusion in schools meals and snacks and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits.
To achieve these goals, the Farm to School Chapter program was implemented to allow communities and individual school districts the opportunity to create a local food procurement program that is personalized to meet the district's individual needs.
Chapters are eligible to receive up to a $4,000 start-up grant to support their activities and can also request promotional items, brochures and grower directories to find local fruit and vegetable farms in their vicinity. Chapter funds are to be used for the purposes of nutritional education as well as the purchase of local fruits and vegetables.
Existing chapters have used the funds for locally-grown Iowa food procurement, creating school gardens, field trips to local farms and orchards, purchase of kitchen equipment to better serve needs of students, educational presentations and materials, food fairs, and classroom activities. To date, over 50,000 students have been served local fruits and vegetables as part of the Iowa program.
Iowa program also using other initiatives to support Farm to School
Currently, Farm to School chapters are located in the following communities: Des Moines, Burlington, West Liberty, Clear Creek Amana, Marshalltown, Ames, Independence, Atlantic, Clear Lake, Amana, Cedar Falls, Oelwein, Decorah, Van Buren, Iowa City, Eldridge, and Windsor Heights.
The Iowa Farm to School program has also undertaken a number of initiatives and supplied additional grants to support schools that have created Farm to School chapters. Past initiatives include "A" is for Apple which helped make locally grown apples available in schools and the Wrap Your Own-Iowa Grown initiative that promoted the purchase of locally-grown vegetables and products to create Iowa grown wraps.More information on all the programs offered through the Farm to School initiative, including information on how to form a Farm to School Chapter, is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov and then clicking on the "Farm to School" link under "Hot Topics." Questions or comments about the program can also be directed to Tammy Stotts at [email protected] or Emily Wadle at [email protected].