The state of children’s health in the U.S. isn’t ideal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 percent of 6- to 19-year-olds are obese. That number tripled in the last 30 years. As a result, agencies and organizations have pushed for efforts to promote healthy eating. Farm-to-school programs are one method of offering both nutritional education and smart eating opportunities, and more states are passing legislature to support them.
The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is a program that connects schools with local farms in order to provide students with healthy sustainable lunches, teach them about nutrition, and support both local and regional farms. For example, schools that participate send students on farm field trips, teach them to grow their own gardens and even provide cooking lessons.
The program varies by location in order to adequately aid individual areas. There are currently farm-to-school programs in schools all 50 states, though the network supports unanimous participation across all public schools. They may not have gotten there yet, but more states are providing support for these programs.
Working toward healthier schools
According to Civil Eats, 37 states have passed or introduced legislation to support farm-to-school programs. A survey report conducted by the NFSN details which states have introduced bills, what thy entail and their current status. For example, Alaska and Oregon passed legislation in 2013 that provided funding for farm-to-school programs in their states.
“What we see in the legislation is increasing dynamism and synergy between state governments and local food movements, connecting education and agriculture sectors in mutually beneficial partnerships while improving the quality of food available to our children,” Helen Dombalis, policy and strategic partnerships director for NFSN, told the source.
The survey information is meant to be a resource for schools and states who want examples of current farm-to-school policies. If more states wish to support the programs in their region, they have a working resource available in the survey.
In fact, NFSN programs have reached more than 38,000 schools and 21 million students.
Teaching healthy living
The NFSN is hosting the 7th annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Austin, Texas, in April 2014. Powering Up will bring together policy makes, chefs, farmers, authors, schools, student leaders and more to discuss issues centering around food in American cafeterias, including prisons, hospitals and schools. Registration ends in March, so if you’re a student of a Texas culinary arts program, you may want to sign up now.
There are many programs outside of the NFSN and the Farm to Cafeteria Conference that are devoted to teaching kids about healthy, sustainable eating. The Let’s Move! campaign was started by first lady Michelle Obama. The initiative hopes to eradicate childhood obesity by 2015 by supporting physical fitness classes and nutritional education courses in schools.
Since Let’s Move! began, the program has seen many victories. For example, Disney Parks has pledged to meet federal health standards, serving foods low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.