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Farm to school practices enrich the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local farmers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools. The three main farm-to-school practices are local food procurement, nutrition education, and school gardens.
Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as educational 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 re-directing schools’ purchasing dollars toward the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.
Farm to school practices are different in each community. Farm to school can include any or all of:
In Arkansas, 47 school districts are using farm to school practices. That's an impact on 195 schools, and 95,605 students! Top products for the farm to school sales in Arkansas are apples, watermelon, berries, sweet potatoes, and lettuce. Schools are allowed to set their own definitions of local food. Definitions used in Arkansas range from 50 miles to anything within the state. Schools make purchases directly from farmers and farmers’ markets, as well as through distributors and processors. Making local food purchases do not require any extra paperwork on the part of the farmer or the school. The best way to get started is to find out who is interested in farm to school in your area!
Many Arkansas-based nonprofit, research and educational organizations are working to provide students with nutrition education and hands-on learning opportunities through the farm to school programs. There is great potential for growth in this area, with agriculture being a vital contribution to the Arkansas economy.
The Access to Healthy Foods Research Group also serves as the Arkansas Core Partner for the National Farm to School Network. Visit the National Farm to School Network website for more information and resources about farm to school across the nation.