Vermont Business Magazine Supporters of Farm to School in Vermont gathered Monday morning at Berlin Elementary School to celebrate National Farm to School Month, as well as the awarding of an USDA Grant to NOFA-VT to support Farm to School efforts in the state. The group also participated in a tour of the school garden, hosted by several of the students at the school.
- Nearly 4 in 5 Vermont schools have some Farm to School integration.
- 62% purchase over 10% of their food from local sources.
- 65% of schools are connected to a local farmer or farm.
Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Anson Tebbetts started his remarks by congratulating the students on their successful garden. He went on to say, "The value of the Farm to School program and our Farm to School Network partnerships is reinforced by the Data Harvest Initiative. Through this effort we can see the impact of our collaborative efforts. Connecting our farms to our schoos is a win-win for our kids, farmers and state."
The US Department of Agriculture funding will support The School to Farm: Know Your Farmer, Know Your School Project, which aims to develop a strong "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" culture among the students who participate in the program. Based on numerous successful farm to school projects in Vermont, the project will build excitement about local food for students, and will incorporate peer support for positive eating habits. Further, when locally sourced food is integrated into the cafeteria, school staff are more likely to purchase from the cafeteria as well, further deepening the opportunity for positive modeling and expand school community engagement with farm to school.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the leading champion for Farm To School efforts on the Senate Agriculture Committee, was not able to attend the gathering, but he shared a statement: "At Berlin Elementary, we see how kids who eat nutritious food learn better and live healthier lives, and how our farms thrive when they have access to local markets. We thank Vermont's leaders in education and agriculture for developing this partnership connecting the cafeteria, the classroom and the farm, advancing the national Farm to School movement. And congratulations to NOFA-VT for securing a Farm to School grant award. As you continue to develop stronger partnerships between schools and farm, I will continue to advocate for investment in Farm to School because it's a smart investment that yields broad returns, from healthier students, to resilient farms, to stronger communities in Vermont and across the country."
Betsy Rosenbluth, VT FEED Project Director, thanked legislators for working to expand the Vermont Farm to School program, with both increased funding for the statewide grants program and increased access with an opening to allow early childhood programs to participate in Farm to School. She noted that the Vermont Farm to School Network is working towards a goal that by 2025, 75% of Vermont Schools will lead the cultural shift to a values-based food system that engages 75% of our students in integrated food system education; community-based learning; nourishing universal meals; and the experience of self-efficacy; purchasing at least 50% from a socially just and environmentally and financially sustainable regional food system.
"Research shows that 90% of brain development occurs by age five," stated Matt Levin, Executive Director of the Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance. "That is why the expansion of Vermont's Farm to School program to early care and education programs is so important. This investment supports healthier nutrition options for Vermont's children in communities across the state."
Farm to School was born in Vermont and over the past decade, the farm to school movement has exploded across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and U.S. Territories. From school gardens and farm field trips to local food on cafeteria trays, farm to school practices help children learn about where food comes from and make healthier choices while also creating new markets for local and regional farmers.
The Vermont Farm to School Network (VFSN) is a statewide Network providing leadership, coordination, and advocacy to advance new and existing farm to school and early childhood efforts in Vermont classrooms, cafeterias, programs and communities.
VT FEED's vision is to engage every student and community in a local food and farm culture that nurtures child health, cultivates viable farms, and builds vibrant communities. VT FEED accomplishes this by helping to grow robust farm to school programs, acting as a catalyst for rebuilding healthy food systems, and cultivating links between classrooms, programs, cafeterias, communities, and local farms. FEED is currently managed by NOFA-VT and Shelburne Farms.