LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Jan. 20, 2016) — A group of farmers that has outgrown the buying power of their local farmers market is now looking to schools as new customers. A public school with a thriving garden needs resources to process their harvest and serve in cafeteria meals. And a school that is already serving local produce in the cafeteria needs educational and marketing materials to draw students back into the school meals program.
The Farm to School Awards program is helping all of these organizations, and others across the Natural State grow their farm to school programs. The awards were provided through a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant received by the Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) Research Institute and its Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program (COPRP).
"Farm to school initiatives enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy and local food by changing purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools," said Emily English, state lead for the National Farm to School Network.
Across Arkansas, 44 organizations have received awards through this one-time program. To be eligible, applicants had to attend a one-day farm to school workshop sponsored by the COPRP. Applicants could choose from a variety of resources, including food preparation equipment for school cafeterias, crates for the transportation of fresh produce and educational and marketing materials for engaging students in farm to school initiatives.
The farm to school movement has helped farmers connect with their communities and fill gaps in their sales.
"We've been participating in farm to school for two years," said Tom Green, a certified organic farmer and owner of Green Acres Farm in Atkins, Ark. "We have developed relationships with the schools that have proven invaluable. Farm to school has allowed us to expand the growing season with a reliable winter market. These markets have provided us with an opportunity to increase sales while impacting the health and future of the next generation."
With the awards, the COPRP hopes that more communities will get the jumpstart they need to start or expand their farm to school program. Andrew Carberry with COPRP said, "farm to school practices can be put in place by any farm or school, but we have seen that with a little outside support, communities can go further, faster. These awards are meant to support those already heading down that path and empower those just getting started."
For a complete list of farm to school award recipients, see arkansasfarmtoschool.org.
The Arkansas Grow Healthy Study is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-68001-30014 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children from birth to age 21. Over the past century, ACH has grown from a small orphanage in Little Rock to a statewide network of care that includes an expansive pediatric teaching hospital and research institute, as well as regional clinics in several counties. ACH also reaches children across the state and nation through a range of telemedicine capabilities that ensures every child has access to the best care available, regardless of location or resources. The hospital's campus in Little Rock spans 36 city blocks and houses 370 beds, a staff of 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. A campus under development in northwest Arkansas will bring 225,000 square feet of inpatient beds, clinic rooms and diagnostic services to children in that region of the state. A private nonprofit, ACH boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking research — all dedicated to fulfilling its mission of championing children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow. For more info, visit archildrens.org.
ACHRI provides a research environment on the ACH campus to meet the needs of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences faculty. Research scientists at ACHRI conduct clinical, basic science, and health services research for the purpose of treating illnesses, preventing disease and improving the health of children everywhere.
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