Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. – National Farm to School Network
Farm to school programs and policies encourage partnerships between farmers and school food buyers that work to bring local food into school meal programs. In 2008 the National School Lunch Act was modified to encourage schools to practice geographic preference in school food procurement. Since 2011, the Arizona Department of Education, Health and Nutrition Services Division (HNS) has worked to connect school food buyers with Arizona producers by offering regional farm tours, regional buyer-supplier meetings and training to schools on topics such as local procurement, food safety, and basics in school gardening. For more information, visit Arizona’s Farm to School Program website.
Children learn by doing. School gardens are increasingly being used as hands-on tools to help students learn many core educational concepts. School gardens introduce students to the joys of growing, cooking, and eating their own food through an integration of hands-on, garden-based curriculum into classroom learning. Students have the opportunity to work in the vegetable beds and on the cutting boards to awaken their senses and open their minds, both to their core academic subjects and to the world around them. To date, the Arizona Department of Education estimates that there are over 200 Arizona’s schools reported having an active school garden on campus.
The Arizona Department of Health Services oversees a School Garden Food Safety Certification Program to enable fresh produce to be safely served in school cafeterias from an on-site school garden. The School Garden Program will help your school garden meet the requirements of approved source as required in the Arizona Food Code. Complete school garden guidelines for the state of Arizona are available here. The University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension also offers free training to assist schools with starting a garden and completing the certification process.
Farm to school activities enhance classroom education through hands-on learning related to food, health, agriculture and nutrition. Many schools are using interdisciplinary garden curriculum tied to state standards that engage students in core subjects such as math, science, arts and language. Farm to school and school garden programs provide access to and increases the consumption of high quality and nutritious foods, reduces waste; all of which help to create a healthy learning environment for students.
Healthy Harvest for Arizona Schools
Healthy Harvest for Arizona Schools was created to assist school food service in their local purchasing efforts. The main priority for purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables is to encourage students to connect with unfamiliar or unappealing foods in order to increase acceptability and consumption of these foods. Arizona Department of Education, Health and Nutrition Services Division took note of the concerns expressed from school food service on the low consumption of vegetables among student consumers within certain vegetable subgroups, particularly: dark green, dark red/orange and bean and pea (legumes). This is an educational resource developed for food service, teachers and parents to address the seasonality of Arizona grown vegetables and the connection they have to building healthy eating behaviors among students and their families.
Resources for teachers:
Arizona Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Agriculture Literacy Program
University of Arizona Community and School Garden Project
Nourish Food + Community Curriculum Guide