In Minnesota, fewer than one in five students reported eating the recommended number of fruit and vegetables.1
That bodes ill for healthy children and for learning lifelong habits that can result in better health.
Programs linking fresh fruits and vegetables to schools, such as the Farm to School program, encourage children to learn about healthy eating. They also help create new markets for small and mid-size farmers and support local economies. The Farm to School program provides K-12 students with access to fresh, local food, while supporting local farmers in their communities. This program also helps them understand where their food comes from and how food choices affect their health, environment and community.
Farm to School involves many local, state and regional partners, advisors and projects. The program is just one of the tools to combat unhealthy eating, which contributes to obesity and poor health. “School, just like home, is a natural place to model the importance of eating fruits and vegetables,” said Jean Ronnei, director of nutrition and commercial services at St. Paul Public Schools. “By purchasing local products, we connect kids to the farmers in a way that allows them to explore new foods, learn how they are grown and feel proud to live in the Midwest.“
Why Farm to School?
Healthy kids. Students develop healthy eating habits and reduce risks for obesity and other health issues when they have increased access to food education and fresh foods in school meals.
Healthy economies. The program keeps more local money in the local economy by connecting schools with farmers. This also leads to school meal planning and making foods more nutritious. It also increases student participation in school lunch programs, thereby creating higher revenue for schools.
Healthy communities. As an important element of a local food system, Farm to School programs bring people and resources together to make their community better for everyone.
At a Glance
The number of public school districts engaged in Farm to School rose from fewer than 20 districts in 2006 to 208 districts in 2012. Participants include a variety of public, private, parochial, charter and tribal schools with programs in place.
- The Farm to School program serves 609,370 students, or 73 percent, of Minnesota’s K-12 population.
- Winona schools serve bison from a nearby ranch as well as local broccoli, winter squash, whole wheat breads and wild rice.
- Rosemount students are served locally grown sweet corn.
- Northfield schools feature local watermelons, salad greens, carrots and sheep's milk cheese.
- Sartell–St. Stephen students are served locally grown apples.
- Pine River–Backus Elementary School students are offered locally produced wild rice and honey.
1 2010 Minnesota Student Survey