Sunnyvale School District Embraces “Farm to School” Program

Farm fresh food has made a comeback in our schools – over half of California’s 1000 school districts are engaged in “Farm to School” activities, according to the USDA’s new Farm to School Census. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) supports local farmers by assisting them in getting their produce into schools, while also helping school food service staff market and prepare the food for students. The goal of the Farm to School movement is to connect schools to local farmers, increasing student access to healthy foods, supporting family farmers, and growing our local economies. CAFF’s programs support healthy eating behaviors and local agriculture knowledge among K-12 students. By connecting schools to farms in the classroom and in the cafeteria, the Farm to School program creates environments that support a healthy approach to student health and wellness.

The Community Alliance with Family Farmers  is a non-profit that works to advocate for California family farmers and sustainable agriculture. CAFF has been running Farm to School programs since 2001 and works in partnership with over 20 school districts around the state in developing, implementing, and evaluating Farm to School programs. Through a grant with Kaiser Permanente, the Sunnyvale School District partnered with CAFF several years ago and while working closely with Gail Burke, Manager of Child Nutrition, has continued to expand the Farm to School program within the district.

The Farm to School is a multi-level program, including monthly Harvest of the Month tasting kits that expose students to nutrition and agriculture lessons and allows them to taste a new fruit or vegetable. This program is currently at five of our ten school sites: Vargas, Lakewood, San Miguel and Cumberland Elementary Schools and Columbia Middle School.  Although CAFF has a Farm to School educator, Sara Mendes, who is only available to teach in a limited number of classrooms, the goal is to have our teachers embrace the program and tailor the curriculum to their students. Our teachers are given monthly curriculum so they are able to teach interactive lessons on the particular fruit or vegetable of the month, including taste testing. Mendes also dresses up as the monthly fruit or vegetable to promote the produce in the cafeterias. CAFF works closely with Burke and her staff to feature the monthly produce item in cafeteria menu recipes or at the salad bar for students to enjoy.

The Sunnyvale School District is very proud of this program as it has been a wonderful learning experience for our students and their families! The district has embraced the program and everyone is talking about all the positive changes that have come about when students get to actually taste a new food while learning about it. They get excited about trying something new, which is also healthy for them, and they look forward to the next Harvest of the Month item.  Students are able to make “good” food choices when given the option, and they are encouraging their parents to try new foods at home as well. Our students in the Farm to School program are given the tools necessary to make healthy choices that will last a life time.

The following report from CAFF shows how well the district is doing with regards to purchasing local fresh produce in recent months under the Farm to School program.

SSD Farm to School (4)

If you would like more information regarding The Community Alliance with Family Farmers please visit: www.caff.org

Article by Deborah Dodge 

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