Did you know there is a growing national Farm to Preschool movement? Douglas County is a part of the movement and you can be involved in a number of ways! But first, you might be wondering, "What is Farm to Preschool?" Farm to Preschool (or Child Care) has many of the same goals and activities as Farm to School programs. The National Farm to School Network increases access to local food and nutrition education to improve children’s health, strengthen family farms, and cultivate vibrant communities. Today, all 50 states participate in Farm to School in one way or another.
Now there is growing recognition that it is also important to reach children at an even younger age with access and education around local foods. Here is what farmtopreschool.org has to say about the movement:
“Farm to Preschool is a natural expansion of the national farm to school model and encompasses a wide range of programs and activities. Farm to Preschool serves the full spectrum of child care delivery: preschools, Head Start, center-based, programs in K-12 school districts, nurseries and family home care facilities. Its goals are multi-level and include: influencing the eating habits of young children while their preferences are forming; creating healthy lifestyles through good nutrition and experiential opportunities such as gardening; improving healthy food access at home and within the community; and ultimately influencing policies to address the childhood obesity epidemic through a local food lens. Program activities can take an environmental and systems change approach by serving preschoolers, teachers and child care providers, parents and family members, as well as communities.
Program components can include the following: sourcing local foods in school snacks and meals; promoting and increasing access to local foods for providers and families; offering nutrition and/or garden-based curricula; school gardening; in-class food preparation and taste testing; field trips to farms, farmers’ markets and community gardens; parent workshops; implementing preschool wellness policies which address Farm to Preschool principles; and influencing policies at the local, state or national level.”
Douglas County’s Farm to Preschool program, Families, Farmers and Educators United includes most of the above components. We would love more community involvement! So, how can you get involved? We have a few ideas!
• Post here, or email some of your favorite gardening, cooking, nutrition, or farm-related activities to do with young children. We might include your activity in our Root for Food curriculum!
• Subscribe to pick up fresh produce at one of the Community Supported Agriculture drop-off sites (contact Emily to find out your options).
• Send us examples of wellness policies that have been successful in your workplace or child care setting.
• Donate gardening supplies!
• Connect your organization to ours! If you are involved in health, gardening or local food systems through education, policy, research, outreach or any other way, we want to collaborate!
Let’s work TOGETHER toward a healthier, more sustainable community!
Contact Emily Hampton with ideas or more details: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
The Douglas County Child Development Association will be hosting the 2nd annual Fall Harvest Festival! The festival will take place on September 16th in celebration of the second year of the farm to child care program, Families, Farmers and Educators United. Participants and supporters of the program are invited to come out to the Pendleton's Country Market to enjoy local food, music and family-friendly games.
Thanks to all of the generous donors who made it possible: Pachamamas, 715, Wheatfields Bakery, Sylas and Maddy's, Sunflower Rental, MSM Systems, J&S Coffee Co., Z's Divine Espresso, KU's Alternative Weekend Breaks and other volunteers, musicians, photographer, and of course the Pendletons!
It should be a beautiful weekend to commemorate the achievements of everyone involved in teaching our young people about healthy, local food!
When working to improve the health of the community and strengthen the local food system, all the pieces of the puzzle are needed. While each part is crucial, the system will not change in any meaningful or lasting way unless all components are present and working together. Without awareness, policies will not be examined. Without policies, actions will not be sustained. Without access, change is not an option. Without education and relationships, access is futile. Families, Farmers and Educators United (FFEU) aims to address all of these components in order to sustain positive change. We spread awareness about the growing childhood obesity issue, we work toward policy change within child care settings, we provide access to nutritious and local food through Community Supported Agriculture and gardening, and we emphasize education and relationship-building through educator trainings and family farm field trips.
In past articles, we have shared photos and stories about Community Supported Agriculture, gardening and cooking with kids. Over the past year and a half, we have also hosted a number of trainings for early educators that provide information about nutrition, local foods, food preparation and gardening. Recently, FFEU organized a weekend family field trip to Maggie's Farm where young children and families got to meet farmer, Barbara Clark and her sheep. Children also got a chance to dig potatoes and plant their own gourds to take home. Through education and family outreach, we hope to change the minds and habits of the early educators and families in a positive way. Children learn from the adults in their lives. By increasing the awareness of adults, we hope that children's lives and health will be improved along the way.
We love being a part of the Lawrence and Douglas County community where community members are making a difference in the health and lives of children. On the same morning as our Maggie's Farm field trip, the Garden Incubator (a child-centered community garden next to Ballard Community Services) partnered with Dads of Douglas County and the 2012 Summer Fun Hunt for a kids hunt in the veggie maze. This Saturday, Growing Food, Growing Health will host a 5K to support their school gardens. The FFEU program is just one of the amazing groups working toward similar goals, and we are grateful to be a piece of the health and gardening puzzle here in Douglas County. Perhaps together, the solution to childhood obesity will no longer be so puzzling!
Families with young children are very busy people, indeed. It can be a real challenge finding the time to prepare healthy meals at home. However, with the rise in childhood obesity, it is increasingly important that young children receive proper nutrition and learn to love healthy food at an early age. Studies show that children have already formed their food preferences by age 5, so it is crucial to reach children from the very beginning with healthy messages around food.
For families enrolled in any of the 9 child care centers participating in Families, Farmers and Educators United, accessing healthy food has gotten a lot easier. Rather than making a separate trip to the grocery store with small children in tow, the 150 families who subscribed to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at their child care center this year simply pick up a weekly bag of fresh, local produce while they are picking up their child(ren).
This increase in fruit and vegetable purchasing not only encourages subscribers to feed their families healthier meals, it also increases the market for local farmers. This mutually beneficial relationship contributes to a healthier community and stronger local food system.
Time, however, is not always the only challenge for families wishing to increase their consumption of local foods. Cost is also seen as an obstacle for many families who are on a tight budget. CSA subscribers generally pay $15/week or $60/month. A household of 4 with an annual income between $10,000 and $30,000 generally spends between $50 and $55 on fruits and vegetables per month, according to the USDA (http://panplanrevision.mainepan-hw.wikispaces.net/file/view/USDA+Food+Stamp+Purchase+documentpdf.pdf). Although a few dollars a month can mean a lot for a family, it is a relatively small price to pay for increasing the freshness and nutrition of meals at home and preventing chronic disease from affecting loved ones. Subscribers also support the local economy.
One local farmer, Barbara Clark of Maggie's Farm, has also made it easier for families on a budget to participate by becoming a SNAP retailer. SNAP is the program that provides food assistance for families, and was formerly referred to as food stamps. Clark's effort allows families enrolled in SNAP to use those benefits to pay for their weekly CSA share. This uncommon and progressive step made by Maggie's Farm may well serve as a model for other farmers to involve a broader segment of the population in local food and health.
With dedicated farmers, passionate early educators and enthusiastic families, the Families, Farmers and Educators United program is leading the way to promoting health in the early years and contributing to the community-wide effort toward a stronger local food system.