The new year has started off on an exciting note for the Douglas County Child Development Association’s program, Families, Farmers and Educators United (FFEU). The Farm to Child Care program has been awarded multiple grants for continuation through 2013 that will allow for greater community collaboration and targeted family outreach. FFEU has spent the past two years working with directors and staff at nine area child care centers and 25 in-home child care providers throughout Douglas County. The program's coordinators have worked with participants to build gardens for the youngest children in our community to gain hands-on experience growing their own food. Early educators have spent countless hours using the Root for Food curriculum to teach young children all about food: where it comes from, how it gets from the farm to our plates, and how to make healthy choices. Nine local farms were matched with the participating nine child care centers and dropped off over 2,000 bags of local produce to subscribing families and centers. In 2012 alone, over $32,000 was kept within our local economy and went directly back to our local farmers through this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement. Seven early educator trainings were conducted within 2012 that gave child care providers tools and information related to food and nutrition that they could pass along to the children in their care. Directors at the child care centers all agreed to develop or improve upon wellness policies at their centers. 18 Weekly Harvest Newsletters were sent out to families over the CSA season, which included information about seasonal produce, recipes, Local Food News, and current lessons being conducted through the Root for Food curriculum. Through the following grant awards, FFEU will be able to continue and expand upon this important work:
- United Methodist Health Ministry Fund $30,000
- Topeka Community Foundation $7,500
- Kansas Health Foundation $25,000
- Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation $15,000
Thanks to this tremendous support from local and respected foundations, FFEU will be making a more concerted effort to reach as many families as possible with opportunities to engage in the local food system and provide a healthier lifestyle for their children. As community leaders recognize the importance of engaging families and children still in their formative years, and with the inspiration and hard work of the families, farmers and educators involved, FFEU is reinvigorated and sure of reaching its goals of decreasing the incidence of childhood obesity and strengthening the local food system in Douglas County.