Even though I moved my family back to our family farm a couple years ago, I don’t get to gather with farmers, community organizers, government agencies, and teachers all that often. And helping my dad out is a lot different that looking at the big picture, and working on connecting schools with farmers.
But in June, Shelly and I shared lesson materials with teachers at the Iowa Farm to School Conference. We came together in search of a common goal–feeding our children fresh, healthy food. And we believe that goal can best be accomplished by promoting farm-school partnerships.
At the conference, still partly virtual because of the pandemic (this was in June you understand) we gathered all around the state to tell stories. I heard tales about what is working in both rural and urban settings – school gardens, taste testing, hands-on nutrition lessons (we work with IDPH), field trips to local farms (and Field to Family)…
The Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Network sponsors the conference each year. But they work year-round to keep Iowa moving toward the goals of healthier food for kids and a better economy for Iowa farmers. That work often includes organizing schools and communities into wellness teams, sometimes involving several school districts.
We shared resources. The Iowa Farm to School Procurement Team talked about new opportunities for schools. Food service directors learned about new recipes featuring local foods.
Right now, as kids are going back to school and parents are appreciating school lunches more than ever, it’s peak season for Iowa produce. Don’t you just love the beans, corn, tomatoes you’re eating? Iowa has long envisioned itself as feeding the world, but can you imagine if our schools supplied their kitchens with even 10% locally grown food? It’s so hopeful to see the growth in this area in just a few years.
Not only on the part of schools using local food and teaching about healthy food, but farmers are diversifying and local food is becoming more accessible at school and in markets. How amazing if our kids’ lunch trays were filled with fresh, healthy food purchased from local farmers. The impact on the local economy, rural communities, and children and their families would be immense.