It is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! Chocolates, roses, and dinner reservations abound. Red and pink envelopes with hearts and kisses strewn across the seal crowd mailboxes and desktops.
Unfortunately, it’s not the heart-shaped chocolates, or a card that will win me over. I don’t want flowers or jewelry, because honestly none of that will do. (Sigh.) I imagine that makes me a difficult case when planning for Valentine’s Day.
If I don’t want all those popular mid-February trappings, then what do I want?
School gardens. Bright green veggies and fresh heart-shaped peppers on the lunch tray. Kids with soil under their fingernails, and smiles planted across their faces.
I want farm to school activities in every district across Illinois. I want kids to know where food comes from, to recognize and enjoy fresh veggies, and to learn how to grow food and fall in love with the experience.
I want to change how we view the school lunch tray.
I know I have given voice to that statement numerous times over the past twenty years. It has been a catch phrase of sorts throughout my career in school nutrition, and now in farm to school. I firmly believe in it. I know it is possible and practical to incorporate fresh, local foods into school menus. I know because I have done it myself, repeatedly. I have trained and guided schools to do the very same thing, and to never say, “We just can’t do that”. Because, for every issue holding them back, I can find a solution. It’s that part of me deep inside that refuses to say, “I can’t.”
Stubborn? Difficult? Take your pick.
So, if you are looking for an out-of-the-box way to say, “I love and support you” think school garden. Start a conversation with your local K-5 science or art teacher, or approach a master gardener in your area. Get the ball rolling and peek their interest with a fantastic and successful program to build lifelong, healthy eating habits in children. Bring school administration onboard by connecting garden work to the mandated school wellness policy. Make your K-5 school your valentine project, and watch the magic happen with every seed they plant, and every vegetable they pull from the ground. Once that garden is established, connect it to the lunch program- and grow veggies for the lunch tray.
It can become your garden of love and support, and a never-ending valentine to the kids in your school district- so much more satisfying than a heart-shaped chocolate.
Will I see you in the garden?
Do you need additional information on school gardens or the farm to school program? Join us for Farm to School Day on March 3. Experience gardening lessons and all things farm to school. Find out more and register here.
Picture this: A roomful of fourth graders on a sunny autumn day in October scrambling for the best place in line as they get ready to head outside. No, it’s not recess! These students are heading out to the school garden to harvest the butternut squash they planted in May, just prior to leaving for summer break.
Wait a minute… kids + butternut squash = excitement? How is this a thing? If you are confused then you haven’t heard about kids gardening and the impact it makes on the pickiest of eaters.
If kids grow vegetables, they are more likely to eat them, or express a preference for these foods. Most gardening programs include lessons on nutrition as well as core studies including science and math skills. However, the real magic happens when kids taste what they have grown.
As stated in a new Cornell study published in Acta Paediatrica, when garden grown vegetables are added into school salads, students were over four times as likely to take a salad. This pilot study, conducted in upstate New York, measured the change in vegetable selection and plate waste when school grown salad greens were incorporated in the cafeteria school lunch.
Cornell researchers measured the selections and plate waste for 370 enrolled high school students over three days. The results? Well, they speak for themselves. When the salad bar contained produce grown by students, the percentage of those who selected salads with their meals increased from 2% to 10% and on average, students ate two-thirds of their salads. Overall salad consumption for the entire student body increased from approximately 5 to 12 servings per day.
April is National Garden Month. Find out how easy it can be to start a garden for your picky eater, and get ready to create a little garden magic of your own at Farm to School Day on March 3!
There’s an amazing organization tucked in a business park on the edge of Geneva, Illinois. It doesn’t make food additives or envelopes, or produce entertaining plays for their community like the neighboring businesses. Its work isn’t glamorous, and it doesn’t have customers world-wide. But, it does have something else: heart. Lots and lots of heart.
It’s the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which works to solve hunger everyday. You may be wondering why there is a need for a large, modern food aggregation facility that feeds 71,500 of your neighbors each week. How can there be that many hungry people in the 13 counties they serve?
If you look at the hunger study Northern Illinois Food Bank participated in during 2014, you will note some shocking facts about our area of the state. Did you know 600,000 people in Northern Illinois turn to food panties and meal programs every week? Or that 78 percent of people who use the Food Bank’s services have a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and 30 percent have completed some college, earned a business, trade or technical degree or completed a four-year college degree or higher level of education?
Are you surprised?
The face of hunger has changed. In DuPage County alone, 85,560 are food insecure, and 44,010 people are food insecure in Kane County. Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members, and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. That amounts to 77 percent of those Northern Illinois neighbors making hard choices between paying utilities, or buying needed food.
Thankfully, Northern Illinois Food Bank is in it for the long haul. It is a nonprofit organization that provides food assistance through a network of 800 food pantries and feeding programs. Last year, the Food Bank distributed 62.5 million meals across 13 counties of Northern Illinois.
Each year in Northern Illinois, people are at risk of skipping 70 million meals, simply because they don’t have enough food for three meals per day. Northern Illinois Food Bank has committed to filling this “meal gap”. It’s goal is to bring the number of meals distributed in their network to 75 million annually by the year 2020. That would provide every meal, every day, for every hungry neighbor. Wow, just think about it!
We are so proud to be partnering with the Northern Illinois Food Bank at our Illinois Farm to School Day on March 3. Every ticket purchased for our Farmhouse Fete will help feed those in need in our communities through the Northern Illinois Food Bank. We cannot think of a better partner, or a more important cause! See you at the Fete!
Whether, or not, you have children who attend a K-12 school many of us are familiar with the issues surrounding school lunch. It’s not hard to form an opinion of a program which feeds more than 31 million U.S. children each school day. With nutrition and meal program requirements in flux at the federal level, school staff are struggling just to keep up. Meanwhile, the children they serve are finding it difficult to accept these new standards as their school meals shift in size, choices and ultimately, in taste.
How do schools teach their students to enjoy squash, spinach, or beets?
What if I told you school lunch has an ally in the fight to serve healthier meals? Farm to School can help schools change how kids view the new and improved lunch tray! Do you want to know how this national program is helping school lunch? To learn more, join us on March 3, 2017 at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva as we educate and then celebrate all things Farm to School in Northern Illinois!
On March 3rd, there’s something for everyone starting in the morning with accredited trainings for school staff, leading into an afternoon of family education and activities on gardening and local foods. Later, join us for our keynote speaker, Shawna Coronado and an after-celebration: The Farmhouse Fete!
Whether you’re familiar with the Farm to School movement, or interested in discovering how we can help you change young children’s eating habits, we have activities, fun and education for you!
School lunch has a new partner. Join us to see what the future of school lunch looks like!
Learn more about Farm to School Day HERE.